Nicholas Kristof Is Sorry

In his column today, The New York Times Op-Ed columnist offers a corrective to his 2002 columns implying that Dr. Steven J. Hatfill (whom Mr. Kristof sometimes referred to as "Mr. Z" in his columns) was connected to the still-unsolved anthrax attacks media and government figures following the 9/11.

In his Public Editor column on August 16th, Clark Hoyt wrote that Mr. Kristof "plans to write a column looking back on the case and apologizing to Hatfill for any ‘extra scrutiny and upheaval the columns brought to him, and wrestling with the journalistic issues involved.’"

Here’s what Mr. Kristof wrote today:

So, first, I owe an apology to Dr. Hatfill. In retrospect, I was right to prod the F.B.I. and to urge tighter scrutiny of Fort Detrick, but the job of the news media is supposed to be to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Instead, I managed to afflict the afflicted.
Dr. Hatfill sued me and The New York Times, along with others in the news media and the Justice Department. His suit against me and The Times was dismissed, yet even if I don’t have a legal obligation, I do feel a moral one to express regret for any added distress from my columns.

Of course, Mr. Kristof could’ve ended there, but the columnist goes on to offer three "What if?" scenarios that challenge journalistic notions of privacy and the public’s right to know. One involves "a group of young foreign men" with "barrels of chemicals"; the next a new suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case; the third, a girls’ basketball coach who’s "been repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct." Would you write about these things if you were asked not to?

Pop quiz, hotshot: Now what do you do?

Nicholas Kristof Is Sorry