The New York Times’ news side refused to publish a story on revelations about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in a forthcoming book by Times reporters because the reporting lacked sufficient detail, which is why the essay ended up in the paper’s opinion section.
According to new Vanity Fair story by media reporter Joe Pompeo, Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly initially approached their paper’s news editors about publishing a preview from their upcoming book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh, but were turned down.
“Why did the Kavanaugh excerpt end up in the Review? People familiar with how things went down told me that Kelly and Pogrebin initially pitched their scoop to the news side, but the top editors ultimately felt that there wasn’t enough juice to warrant a story there, let alone a big page-one treatment (the type many lefties would have been salivating for). Instead, Pogrebin and Kelly were told that they could pitch the Review, which is entirely independent of the News department. I asked for clarification as to what about the story wasn’t News-pages-worthy, but the Times declined to comment, as did Kelly and Pogrebin. (A Times spokesperson did, however, point out that ‘it’s not unusual for Opinion or Sunday Review pieces to break news.’)”
The Times’ opinion section has been pilloried for two glaring mistakes it made in both the rollout and execution of an essay excerpting new details from Pogrebin and Kelly’s book. And while books by Times reporters have debuted in the Review section in the past — for example, the new book about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults — the Vanity Fair story also notes that when Times reporters are on book leave, the reporting they uncover is not subject to verification by the newspaper’s editors or fact-checkers.
Perhaps most importantly from a reputation standpoint, the editorial wall separating the Times’ news and opinion side is a distinction lost on many readers.
“In today’s journalistic world, the conversation is a bit irrelevant, because for most of the people who read the New York Times online or on their phones, it doesn’t matter. It’s all the same,” an anonymous, former high-profile Times alum told Vanity Fair. “Your average reader is not gonna really know or care where it is. They played it up pretty big, and I have to tell you: When I first read it, I had no idea it was in the Review. I tapped on a link, and at the top it said ‘News Analysis.’ And I also didn’t know it was a book adaptation, because I didn’t even get to the end. I get the point of view of the activists. They want the Times to further their agenda, but that’s not the Times’ job.”
Photo credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images.
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