Sunday, July 17, 2011

NYT Public Editor Censures NYT Gas Reporter: Will NYT Reporter's Career End?

The NYT Public Editor is the equivalent of the Internal Affairs department within a police department, reviewing complaints from outsiders about insiders, with most outsiders skeptical that the insiders will police themselves.  The inescapable peer and institutional pressures on the NYT Public Editor are apparent in his piece today, but the NYT Public Editor brought in a verdict of "guilty" against the NYT Reporter on many of the serious charges of malfeasance lodged against him.  See

Of the June 26 article, after stating some of the specific charges of malfeasance and then including  consistently stonewalling, militant explanations from the NYT reporter or his editor about each charge, the NYT Public Editor states:

1. "... the story painted its subject with an overly broad brush and didn't include dissenting views from experts who aren't entrenched on one side or another of the subject."

2. "My view is that such a pointed article needed more convincing substantiation, more space for a reasoned explanation of the other side and more clarity about its focus."

3. "But the article went out on a limb, lacked an in-depth dissenting view in the text and should have made clear that shale gas had boomed."

The NYT reporter and his editor consistently shape information to serve their dominant anti-gas narrative by including sensationalistic words like "ponzi scheme" to stampede opinion, excluding key data, ignoring conflicting opinions, using anonymous, unchallenged sources, inaccurately describing sources to mislead readers, and other sleazy techniques.  TheNYT Reporter and his editor do the same thing on their gas beat that Fox News and the House of Murdoch do every day when covering President Obama.

Of course many viewers of Fox and readers of the Drilling Down series get their prejudices and biases confirmed.  But they do not get the truth from this despicable sort of journalism.

Today some justice for the cause of the truth has been rendered. 

The NYT Public Editor censures the NYT Reporter and his editor.  His piece is as tough as insiders reviewing other insiders will ever get.

In the military an equivalent letter of censure to that made by the NYT Public Editor would end the career of an officer.  The military has a culture of honor, excellence, and accountability.

I doubt the NYT institution and its senior management will meet those high standards. The NYT Reporter is a rogue within the NYT for as long as he is on its payroll, but he is now disgraced by the conclusions of one of his own. That is a measure of accountability.


  1. Concerned ScientistJuly 18, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    A positive development, no doubt. I will say that I think he went a little too easy on him though. It would have been nice to see an equally tough condemnation of the radioactivity article. That one did more to disinform in some ways than the article on the economics of shale gas. The economics of shale gas article went against the narrative of "corporate profits vs. the environment" which is central to the anti-shale gas movement. If they aren't really making profits then that foundation argument would be wrong. I think most of them are convinced that the companies are making enormous profits.

  2. John: Thanks for sharing this information. After reading the comments, however, I have a hard time believing anything will happen to Mr. Urbina, except perhaps that he is supported even more strongly. Maybe it's indicative of NYT readers that they wouldn't subject this type of journalism to more scrutiny. More likely, IMO, it is illustrates that red and blue America continue to be very distinct in our country.

    This was brought home to me at a family reunion this weekend in western PA, where farmers (Red America) have leased their land for gas drilling (for much needed cash, by the way), yet they were almost apologetic for fear that the anti-gas zealots (Blue America) would criticize them for the decision.

    I understand this may be slightly oversimplifying the situation, but it does seem to be generally accurate.

  3. Polarization is a reality and some want to increase polarization. It serves purposes.

    One outcome of the polarization you describe is that everything is permissible if it is a means to a desired end.

    Journalism that is skewed and false is one tool or a means to an end--beat the opponent.

    Truth is the casualty. Society is damaged. But for a blowback to occur enough people all across the spectrum need to insist on real data, real information, and not demagogic attacks that are designed to polarize, keep people polarized. Right now the market for false journalism that confirms the readers/viewers biases or views is much bigger than the market for a journalism that is professional, honest, factual, objective. Journalism is a business and it caters to its consumers too. The Public Editor rebuke, censuring of the NYT gas reporter is a modest, mild pushback. Perhaps what is going on with the hacking scandal at the House of Murdock might lead to another opportunity to reestablish professional, objective journalism as the norm and not the exception.

  4. Seems like the "unduly harsh" specific comments could have been refuted by professionals if this was the case. The problem with the gas companies is the lack of reponse by professionals (example the counter of the referenced geologist's emails) and instead spending millions for PR types like Ridge, Santorum former aides, and Rendells aides. It would be nice to see some Pennsylvania licensed professional geologists that have some working knowledge of this part of the state rather than the continued whining about articles.