NYT reporter admits she did dateline toe touch, asks BBB to take down post

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
By Frank Lockwood

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 in the story were attributed to Episcopal News Service, affiliated with the church’s public relations arm.) The story has been removed from nytimes.com. No correction will be forthcoming.

I just got this e-mail from Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times defending her byline and dateline on a story that contained no original reporting from Anaheim and that took all of its quotes from press releases and (often unattributed) stories by the church’s PR wing — the Episcopal News Service.

Goodstein says the Anaheim dateline is defensible because the story was written after 3 a.m. ET in an Anaheim hotel room.

Goodstein says the Anaheim dateline is also justified because a California colleague did some original reporting on Monday [I’ve scoured the story and if there’s any original reporting there, I can’t find it.] According to the Times’ own story: “Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Los Angeles.” Los Angeles — not Anaheim. In the past year, when Ms. Cathcart has reported from a city near Los Angeles, she’s listed the name of the city. For example: Long Beach, Simi Valley, Loma Linda and even West Hollywood.

Bottom line — there’s no evidence that any reporting was done in Anaheim and there’s lots of evidence that all of the quotes were taken directly from IntegrityUSA and the public relations wing of the Episcopal Church: Not, as Goodstein claims, from wire services.

The Times owes readers an explanation.


Well it sure would have been collegial, not to say ethical, for you to check with the subject of your “reporting” before you posted it on your blog.

So I will volunteer this information that you did not ask for: we had a reporter from our LA bureau covering the convention and the news conference last night as we realized news was breaking (she has the contributor line in our story today). I was on a plane from New York, arrived in Los Angeles after midnight LA time, got to the hotel, and wrote the story you saw on the web this morning, with the help of our reporter’s information and the wires.

Collegially, as the Episcopalians might say, I request that you take your post down. It is an unfair attack job. Also, it is wrong.

Since we have corresponded before, I just do not understand why you did not ask me directly, instead of sending emails to people in the media center here who work for virtueonline.com to ask about my whereabouts.

As you know, with a convention this long, it was hard to determine which days to cover. I gambled that the news would occur towards the end, not the beginning. And here I am.

And you are …..where right now?


Laurie Goodstein

National Religion Correspondent

The New York Times

No Responses to “NYT reporter admits she did dateline toe touch, asks BBB to take down post”

  1. newark survivor

    …And the See of Peter is in Syncope.

  2. UKLutheran

    Keep on keeping ’em honest Frank…

  3. Sophia Katt

    So, how does “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” figure into this situation?

  4. Thank you Frank for being present at GC, and for being the honorable reporter you are…

  5. Caleb Powers

    Frank, as long as the big guys are shooting at you, you’re doing something right!

  6. Arkiebubba

    I don’t believe it is appropriate for a Christian blog to focus so much energy and attention on minor and relatively unimportant matters just so you can condemn people for pennyante stuff. There’s no Christian charity in you, just hate and bile. Shame.

  7. Jay

    I don’t agree with “hate and bile,” but I almost agree with Tmatt — some of this is normal journalistic practice.

    Still, you are right about the NYT running press releases without admitting it. The “help of the wires” is not acknowledged in the story. And most of the wire copy seems to be copy desk rewrites of the ENS or other TEC press releases.

    So focus on how much is actually new information rather than what city it was filed from.


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