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Soundbite: This Is What Grown-Up Tabloid Wars Sound Like

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“We acknowledge that we call attention to it in part because it involves an entry that competed with one of ours. We don’t know what action it might require on your part. But we feel compelled to bring it to your attention because of the esteem in which we hold the Polks.”

From New York Times executive editor Bill Keller’s 2008 letter to the George Polk committee admonishing them for crediting WSJ reporter Shai Oster‘s Polk-winning article about problems with the Three Gorges Dam in China as the reason ‘China acknowledged that it must relocate as many as 4 million people.’ They did not in fact relocate anyone, something the New York Times and the Financial Times, and the Associated Press all reported on.

It was this letter, which the New York Observer has dug up and posted today, which WSJ managing editor Robert Thomson was referring to when he called both the Times and Times reporter David Carr to task yesterday for Carr’s column this week which noted the Journal’s increasingly right-leaning political reporting since Rupert Murdoch took over almost two years ago. In that same response Thomson accused Keller of casting aspersion on the paper in the letter referenced above. From Thomson’s response of this week:

The news column by a Mr David Carr today is yet more evidence that The New York Times is uncomfortable about the rise of an increasingly successful rival while its own circulation and credibility are in retreat. The usual practice of quoting ex-employees was supplemented by a succession of anonymous quotes and unsubstantiated assertions. The attack follows the extraordinary actions of Mr Bill Keller, the Executive Editor, who, among other things, last year wrote personally and at length to a prize committee casting aspersions on Journal journalists and journalism. Whether it be in the quest for prizes or in the disparagement of competitors, principle is but a bystander at The New York Times.

Emphasis mine. Actually, a full read of Keller’s 2008 letter would suggest that if Keller was casting aspersions on anyone it was the Polk committee for not doing due diligence, and even then it’s tenuous. Still, it’s a nice change from Ashley Dupre.

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