Some media observers are in a tizzy over a recent Maureen Dowd column published with a “Derry, N.H.” dateline even though she filed it from Jerusalem. Also that some of the quotes used in the column were collected by her assistant, without a reporting credit.
“It’s driving me out of my fucking mind,” Times editorial-page editor Andy Rosenthal told Media Mob this afternoon.
“[Dowd] reported the column in New Hamsphire. The fact of the matter is, paticularly when covering a campaign which is a very high-speed story, it’s incredibly unusual for the reporter to be in the same place as the dateline when the story is filed. What do you do, stay in Des Moines while a candidate travels to New Hampshire? Oh, don’t go to Ramallah with the President because you have a Jerusalem dateline on your story! I mean this is just ridiculous! This is a complete invention, this controversy.”
“Datelines are kind of an anachronism,” he said. “It’s a little bit of an affectation.”
As for the assistant, Mr. Rosenthal said it’s common for assistants to collect quotes for columnists without a reporting credit.
“Has Greg Sargent ever heard of leg-work? If somebody wrote a blog post saying that all the reporters from the New York Times are Martians, would we have to respond to that too? This is no less ridiculous. It’s just ridiculous!”
Well, why not credit all the reporters who work on a column?
“What’s the value exactly?” Rosenthal asked. “When you look at an article in the paper with reporting credits, you don’t have any idea what stuff in this story actually came from that person. You just know that somebody else worked on that story. Are you going to list all the editors that worked on that story? Are you going to list all the copy editors on that story?”
“We forget often that everything we do is really about the reader,” he continued. “It’s not about media reporters—I’m sorry, I’m not using that pejoratively—it’s not about ourselves, it’s not about the standards editor or the public editor … . Every quote in that column could tell you where it was said and when it was said. There was no pretense that the quotes from the Hillary victory party were uttered before the vote, right? It was obviously after the vote. There was no confusion there about time sequence. There was no pretense that the person being quoted was in some place other than they were so there was no fraud perpetrated here and there was no misdirection.”
“Is it so important that we should cut back on the column and include some italic at the bottom that two unremarkable quotes from this story were provided by somebody else? I’m open to the conversation, but I’m not really sure I know what the reader gets out of it. I’m willing to talk about any reasonable question about reporting in any publication, but this is completely ridiculous.”