The New York Times responds to this awful incidence of reporting as editor Margaret Sullivan lays out what happened and more importantly what must change at reporting at the Times.
I talked on Friday to the executive editor, Dean Baquet; to one of his chief deputies, Matt Purdy; and to the Washington editor, Bill Hamilton, who edited the article. All described what happened as deeply troubling. Mr. Baquet said that some new procedures need to be put in place, especially for dealing with anonymous sources, and he said he would begin working on that immediately.
“This was a really big mistake,” Mr. Baquet said, “and more than anything since I’ve become editor it does make me think we need to do something about how we handle anonymous sources.”
He added: “This was a system failure that we have to fix.” However, Mr. Baquet said it would not be realistic or advisable to ban anonymous sources entirely from The Times.
How did this specific mistake happen?
“Our sources misunderstood how social media works and we didn’t push hard enough,” said Mr. Baquet, who read the article before publication. He said those sources apparently did not know the difference between public and private messages on social-media platforms.
I asked him why reporters or editors had not insisted on seeing or reading the social media posts in question, or even having them read aloud to them; he told me he thought that this would have been unrealistic under the circumstances, but that without that kind of direct knowledge, more caution was required.
Mr. Purdy said “we need to have a red flag” on such stories. He said he believed The Times has an “overreliance” on anonymous sources. Mr. Hamilton sees another lesson, too. “When we don’t know the details, as we didn’t here, there’s probably a reason for that,” he said. He added: “We didn’t see the dangers.”
All the editors said that slowing down, despite the highly competitive nature of a hot news story, is a necessary measure.
Those measures for dealing with anonymous sources need to be made public. But if you think Matt Apuzzo and Michael Schmidt will face any consequences for their actions, you don't know the news industry very well.
Never forget news is a corporate industry in this country.
Mr. Baquet staunchly defended Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Apuzzo (who, he noted, won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting at The Associated Press on the New York police’s surveillance of Muslims), calling them “really fine reporters who have broken a lot of great stories” in recent months. Mr. Hamilton agreed, and noted that Mr. Apuzzo and Mr. Schmidt cover two of the most sensitive beats in Washington — national security and law enforcement, respectively, including the F.B.I.
Mr. Baquet rejected the idea that the sources had a political agenda that caused them to plant falsehoods. “There’s no reason to think that’s the case,” he said.
This is a career newsman saying there's no story here. That's downright laughable.
Oh well. Keep juggling those chainsaws on your credibility, guys.