Monday, September 26, 2005

The New York Times’ Belated Honesty

Since he now works for Fox News, Geraldo Rivera isn’t in favor with the mainstream media. So it wasn’t surprising that a New York Times TV critic described an incident in New Orleans where she saw him as a grandstanding, hotdog reporter.
“Some reporters helped stranded victims because no police officers or rescue workers were around. (Fox’s Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety.)”
Rivera was, as usual, hotdogging this story, but there was one problem with the Times review. Rivera simply didn’t do any “nudging” at all.

In fact, Fox News repeatedly showed the tape on the air and denounced the story. Further, they made the tape available to the New York Times.

The Times simply stonewalled.

For three weeks they refused to correct the mistake, and even defended the story.

Finally, yesterday, the Public Editor of the Times, Byron Calame chimed in to rebuke the paper.
My viewings of the videotape - at least a dozen times, including one time frame by frame - simply doesn’t show me any “nudge” of any Air Force rescuer by Mr. Rivera. (Ms. Stanley declined my invitation to watch the tape with me.) I also reviewed all of the so-called outtakes shot by Mr. Rivera’s camera crew at the Holy Angels Apartments in New Orleans on the morning of Sept. 4. Neither the video nor the audio revealed any nudge of an Air Force rescuer. As for the Air Force, the matter “is not an issue," a spokesman told me last week.
This, of course, was not a matter of opinion. It is a simple fact that no “nudge” is shown in any of the tapes.

So why did the Times stonewall? Quite simply, the grandees at the paper can’t stand to be corrected by Fox News. Fox News the upstart. Fox News the conservative network.

As with the rest of the mainstream media, they are used to being the final arbiters of what is true and what is false, and haven’t adopted to a world where there are more voices, including voices that they can’t in fact afford to ignore. A world where they can be called to account for their errors.

It’s been a rude shock for them, just as it has been for the rest of the mainstream media.

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