New York Times Public Editor: “When a Reporter is an Uninvited Guest”

When a Reporter is an Uninvited Guest

By Margaret Sullivan, New York Times Public Editor

26 April 2013

” . . .  Brooke Kroeger, a New York University journalism professor whose book, “Undercover Reporting: The Truth About Deception,” was published last year, said one of the guiding principles in undercover reporting is that it should not do “unintended harm to persons not in a position to defend themselves.” That certainly was not the case here. (If the subject interests you, see the fascinatingWeb site related to that book for many examples — including the much disputed Food Lion case in which ABC journalists became employees of a supermarket chain and exposed unsavory practices.)

“She argued that undercover and surreptitious reporting has produced some of the most impressive and important work in the history of journalism. On a much larger scale, think of the Washington Post’s exposé of the horrendous practices at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“She also noted, and I agree, that readers should have known more about what happened than the cryptic sentence about a reporter asked to leave. For one thing, which New York Times reporter? A paragraph of clear explanation would have added the necessary transparency.

“I would see this case far differently if a Times reporter had been eavesdropping on a private citizen for a salacious story or had illegally broken into a private home.  That would be unacceptable — but it wasn’t what happened.

“My conclusion: Given the buttoned-down, scrubbed-up way politicians present themselves, it’s challenging for reporters to get under the surface. And it’s important for citizens that they do.

“What Mr. Lipton did should not become an everyday practice. But – seen in this wider context – it’s not only pretty small stuff, but also reflects some journalistic initiative that serves Times readers well.”

 

NHD contestants: Please read this.

The Suffragents in the news: Kirkus FeaturesKirkus Reviews, Foreword ReviewsTown & Country, The American ScholarTabletmag.com,  Unorthodox podcast, Top of Mind with Julie Rose (live), NYU FeaturesWomen’s Media Center,  Futurity, Non-Fiction FansHeforShe.org’s The ScoopOpzij magazine (NL), AmericasDemocrats podcast, Facebook , Brooke’s posts, Good Men Project , suffrageandthemedia.org,

Upcoming events:  Oct. 19: East Hampton Library. Oct. 22: Author’s Talk & Tea: Woodlawn Conservancy. Oct. 26: Talk Back at the Black Box Theater  for Nancy Smithner’s “Hear Them Roar: The Fight for Women’s Rights.” Nov. 5: Holiday Book Signing at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, NY. Nov. 6: Brentwood Public Library Nov. 7: NYU Center for the Humanities. Nov. 10: Gotham Center for NYC History/CUNY Graduate Center Nov. 16: Book & Bottle: Suffolk County Historical Society & Museum. Nov. 17-18 Researching New York Conference, Albany. Nov. 20: Brookhaven League of Women Voters. March 10: Keynote, Joint Journalism & Communications Historians Conference, New York City.

Parting shots of: the book launch events of Sept. 1 in East HamptonSept. 11 in NYC and Sept. 14 in Cambridge Mass. I’ve got comment and a video (expected soon) of the Sept. 28 event with Angela P. Dodson at the NY Society Library I spoke at the NY Genealogical & Biographical Society Fall Luncheon on Oct. 10 to an audience in which men were very well represented. Oct. 14, I presented on a panel at the AJHA Convention, Little Rock, Ark., on ‘When the Women of Suffrage Got Its Makeover On.” More to come on that.