New York Times (again) ignores own ethical policies

UPDATE: The New York Times has confirmed that this story did not comply with the paper’s dateline policy. But it says the fault lies with an editor, not reporter Laurie Goodstein. The Times also says it erred by listing Rebecca Cathcart as “reporting from Los Angeles.” Cathcart did do some original reporting at some point Monday in Anaheim, although not enough (all of the Monday quotes from General Convention proceedings in the story were attributed to Episcopal News Service, affiliated with the church’s public relations arm.)

Although all of the General Convention quotes in the story appeared in Episcopal Church news releases before appearing in the Times, the Times determined that was coincidental. Only the quotes attributed to Episcopal News Service were taken from Episcopal News Service. The other General Convention quotes came from watching video feeds from the convention or from posts on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website.

The story has been removed from nytimes.com.

The New York Times is playing fast and loose with its own ethical standards. Again.

Take a look at this storyand you’ll see what I mean.

Google the quotes and see if you can find ANY that weren’t lifted off of press releases or other people’s stories — several without attribution.

I was at General Convention from Wednesday through Sunday and I never encountered anyone from the New York Times — and I was looking. In fact, I was told by church spokeswoman Neva Fox on Sunday afternoon that the Times hadn’t sent a reporter to the convention.

So I was started to see a story bearing an Anaheim dateline pop up on the Times’ website at 6:57 a.m. Pacific Time this morning. [And Transfigurations.blogspot.com says the story was already online at 4:43 a.m. Pacific Time.] That’s awfully early to be wrapping up interviews and to be putting the finishing touches on a story.

So I started Googling the quotes. None of them appear to have been captured by religion reporter Laurie Goodstein in Anaheim.

The quote in paragraph one comes from this online source.

The quote in paragraph nine comes from this press release that was e-mailed across America late last night.

The quotes in paragraph 11 were lifted (with attribution) from a story published this morning by the church’s official public relations organ — The Episcopal News Service.

The quotes in paragraph 18 were lifted (without attribution) from a July 12 story by Diocese of Kansas spokeswoman Melodie Woerman.

The quotes in paragraph 19 also are lifted (without attribution) from Episcopal News Service. (See here.)

The paraphrase in paragraph 20 was taken (without attribution) from the British press. (See here).

The quote in paragraph 21 was also lifted without attribution from numerous online sources.

This looks like a classic case of a “Dateline Toe Touch.” [Paging Jack Shafer at Slate Magazine.] It’s the type of thing that got Rick Bragg in hot water.

I’ll see if I can get more information on this and fill you in.

UPDATE: I asked Mary Ann Mueller, an online journalist covering General Convention in Anaheim, if she’s seen Laurie Goodstein yet. Mueller said she hasn’t seen Goodstein at any of the press conferences, but that she’d ask Episcopal Church officials if they’ve seen Goostein.

I just got this update from Mueller: “ACCORDING TO [Episcopal Church spokeswoman] NEVA [Fox]; Laurie is expected today.” The Times has also dispatched someone from their LA office to work with Goodstein, Mueller was told.

Updated: July 14, 2009 — 10:12 am

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  1. Well, whenever a pope dies, the New York Daily News simply cribs from “The Shoes of the Fisherman.” I saw it twice during 1978…attitude seems to be that religious reporting just doesn’t matter.

  2. I was at a denominational meeting several years ago and I was appalled at the lack of attempt at understanding our church polity or theology or anything else from the media representatives. They were all quoting each other, misquoting those interviewed, misinterpreting events. They just needed a story and really didn’t care so much if it was accurate or not. I don’t really listen so much any more.

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