Bad faith

Clark Hoyt, the NYT ombudsman, has a formula when addressing complaints about his newspaper’s misconduct. First, he admits the paper made a mistake, then he denies it did so in bad faith. But lately, he’s had cases in which the NYT’s bad faith has been so blatant that it’s been necessary to withhold some of the facts. A few weeks ago, he did so in a small scandal involving David Pogue, the NYT’s technology columnist, and now he’s done so in the ACORN scandal.

He begins his latest column this way:

ON Sept. 12, an Associated Press article inside The Times reported that the Census Bureau had severed its ties to Acorn, the community organizing group. Robert Groves, the census director, was quoted as saying that Acorn, one of thousands of unpaid organizations promoting the 2010 census, had become “a distraction.”

What the article didn’t say — but what followers of Fox News and conservative commentators already knew — was that a video sting had caught Acorn workers counseling a bogus prostitute and pimp on how to set up a brothel staffed by under-age girls, avoid detection and cheat on taxes.

As James Taranto points out, this is only half true. Indeed, the NYT’s version of the AP article did not say anything about the sting. But the AP article did:

ACORN fired two employees who were seen on hidden-camera video giving tax advice to a man posing as a pimp and a woman who pretended to be a prostitute. Fox News Channel broadcast excerpts from the video on Thursday. On the video, a man and woman visiting ACORN’s Baltimore office asked about buying a house and how to account on tax forms for the woman’s income. An ACORN employee advised the woman to list her occupation as “performance artist.”

In a statement, ACORN Maryland board member Margaret Williams said the video was an attempt to smear ACORN, and that undercover teams attempted similar setups in at least three other ACORN offices. Williams said no tax returns were filed and no assistance was provided.

The NYT actually edited the AP article to remove the information explaining the controversy. (“All the news that’s fit to print”!) That fact alone makes the denial of bad faith unworkable. No wonder Hoyt keeps it from the reader.

This incident, like the earlier Pogue incident, makes it crystal clear that Clark Hoyt’s job has nothing to do with holding his paper accountable. His purpose is to cover for his paper’s misdeeds, in order to reassure the NYT’s remaining readers that it is behaving responsibly. In other words, he is just another dishonest NYT journalist.

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