NYU Prof Wrapped Up in Grazergate

On Thursday morning, Dalton Conley, chair of sociology at New York University, sent out a pair of emails, one to the Los Angeles Times and one to the office of Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. He wanted to confirm something, which he had just heard about in a voice mail from the Media Mob.

Was the publisher of the Times, in fact, considering killing off the upcoming special opinion section of the paper, guest-edited by Mr. Grazer?

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Conley received confirmation from both camps. Sure enough, the Times had decided to spike the entire section amidst concern about a romantic relationship between editorial page editor Andres Martinez and a publicist close to Mr. Grazer.

Like the rest of the columns commissioned by Mr. Grazer, Mr. Conley’s contribution– an essay on how race and gender bias in the electorate may affect the current presidential campaign–would no longer be running in this Sunday’s paper as originally planned. “Everybody was very apologetic,” explained Mr. Conley when reached at his NYU office on Friday morning.

Mr. Conley, for one, remains hopeful that his piece–and perhaps the rest of the section– will eventually be published elsewhere.

“I haven’t seen the other pieces, so I don’t know how much they work as a package,” said Mr. Conley. “Given that this is Brian’s vision and he is the editor of them, I trust where he wants to try and place them. My piece in particular is not time sensitive. It’s not pegged to an immediate news issue, so I’m not particularly stressed about it.”

How did the assignment come up in the first place?

Mr. Conley says he first met Mr. Grazer this past fall at a dinner party hosted by Seed magazine at the Lever House restaurant on Park Avenue. Both Mr. Grazer and Mr. Conley were being honored as part of the magazine’s feature on “nine revolutionary minds.” At the dinner, Mr. Grazer took an interest in Mr. Conley’s work. Months later, he sought out the star sociologist to contribute to his star-crossed opinion section. Along the way, Mr. Grazer also commissioned a piece from another honorary dinner guest at the Seed party, Nobel-prize winning scientist Eric Kandel.

Mr. Conley pointed out that, before the current dust-up, he had previously published three pieces in the op-ed section of the L.A. Times. How upset is he about the displacement of his forth piece?

“For me, it’s not a big deal,” said Mr. Conley. “I’m hoping that these pieces will still come out somewhere as a group or individually. In my humdrum academic life, it’s been pretty exciting to be involved in a Hollywood sex scandal, especially when there’s no fall out for me.”

Felix Gillette