Patterico's Pontifications

2/6/2008

Where Is Sam Zell When You Need Him?

Filed under: General,Law,Media Bias — Patterico @ 8:25 pm

Linda Greenhouse has done it again: reported on a case that her husband had involvement in, without disclosing the conflict to her readers.

Ed Whelan writes:

In today’s New York Times, Linda Greenhouse has another article on the Boumediene case now pending in the Supreme Court—a case in which her husband Eugene Fidell and his nonprofit alter ego have participated. The article provides an interesting discussion of the interaction between Boumediene and a D.C. Circuit ruling (in Bismullah v. Gates) that the Bush administration will be asking the Supreme Court to review. The article is about both cases, which Greenhouse states are “inextricably entwined.”

Once again, Greenhouse and her editors have declined even to disclose to Times readers the fact and nature of Greenhouse’s conflict of interest in reporting on Boumediene. Indeed, they haven’t even complied with NYT public editor Clark Hoyt’s patently inadequate recommendation . . . that the conflict of interest be disclosed on Greenhouse’s website bio, where few readers would ever be likely to encounter it.

As Ed observes, Clark Hoyt recently said that Greenhouse should have disclosed her husband’s involvement in a case she reported on. Specifically, Hoyt said: “The Times should have clued in readers.” Yet here the situation has arisen again — and the Times is doing nothing.

Could there be a starker example of the contempt the New York Times has for its conservative critics?

My kingdom for a video of Sam Zell telling off Linda Greenhouse and Bill Keller.

(H/t to Dafydd ab Hugh, who brought the Greenhouse article to my attention.)

41 Responses to “Where Is Sam Zell When You Need Him?”

  1. Why would the Times care? Their target audience does not care.

    JD (db086b)

  2. Zell wouldn’t be of much help — he owns that other biased and inaccurate Times. But the confusion is understandable.

    Bradley J Fikes (1c6fc4)

  3. Didn’t the public editor already discuss her husband’s employment? and the supposed “conflicts”? That’s disclosure.

    stef (4fe3dc)

  4. Didn’t the public editor already discuss her husband’s employment? and the supposed “conflicts”? That’s disclosure.

    Did you really type that, take a look at it, and say “yeah, great point!” ?

    JD (db086b)

  5. Bradley,

    No confusion. I’d just like to see Zell taking his special brand of dressing-down to the NYT. I’d like to see it so much, I’d chip in for him to buy it.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  6. So, we have stef onboard supporting dishonesty, and a failure to disclose.

    JD (db086b)

  7. I mean, I’d chip in like 5 bucks. Zell would have to come up with the other $699,999,995.00 or so.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  8. stef,

    Do you think every reader of Greenhouse’s articles saw Hoyt’s piece?

    I mean, I know you’re out to defend Greenhouse no matter what — but if you think disclosure should be meaningful, as in, seen by the reader for whom it is relevant . . . then your point misses the mark pretty widely.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  9. I’ll match you that $5! Now if we had every other Patterico reader do the same . . .

    Bradley J Fikes (1c6fc4)

  10. “Do you think every reader of Greenhouse’s articles saw Hoyt’s piece?”

    Nope. Nothing has been hidden, and in fact it has been printed — at least on the web, didn’t see print.

    Nor do I think there is a conflict here. There are no ambiguities — we know which positions are hers, and which are her husbands, the story doesn’t involve him, and she has no financial interest there.

    Last time people linked to the NYT ethics policy, but they seemed to not know what it said. The NYT doesn’t have a policy of disclosure — the policy is that people not report on topics when there are conflicts. A disclosure policy, specially when people here were talking about “opinions” as potential sources of “conflicts” would be ridiculous.

    stef (6c5bbe)

  11. There is one change in this article, namely directly above the headline it says “NEWS ANALYSIS” albeit in smaller font. I went back through the prior ten or so of her other articles (most recent had been Jan 26th) and none had any “analysis” tag.

    Truth be told, almost every article in the NYT or from the AP should have the “analysis” disclaimer as there articles go way beyond “who, what, when” that I think newspapers should report.

    Charlie (03643a)

  12. I’m not going to argue with you about whether this is a conflict, stef, just like I’m not going to walk over to my wall and bash my head repeatedly against it. I’m not a big fan of pointless arguments; I’ll leave it to others to make the obvious points they have repeatedly made in the past.

    But your first point was that disclosure has been made. Now that I point out (and you agree) that the relevant consumer won’t see the disclosure, your best argument is to say that “nothing has been hidden.” This argument conveniently ignores the facts that 1) it had been hidden until a conservative critic exposed it and 2) that which you claim has not been hidden, you also admit has not been shown to readers in the relevant place.

    Fine. From now on, I’m putting all relevant disclosures in the Pennysaver rather than anywhere on my site. Or, if you insist that they go on my site, I’ll update a three-year-old post with the disclosure. Sure, nobody will see the disclosure. But hey — it hasn’t been hidden! It’s right there for everyone to see (in the Pennysaver, or in some old post nobody will ever read again).

    Good enough for stef!

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  13. stef, what you forget here is that the public editor has already said that there should have been disclosure the last time this happened…and there wasn’t, and it has happened again, and their isn’t again…

    reff (99666d)

  14. Patterico or anyone else want to give a look at an LAT column by Dana Parsons, about how the paper hews to objectivity by keeping its journalists from partisan political activities?

    I’m suggesting taking the claims seriously, not just laughing at them — tempting as that would be.

    Here’s a sample:

    I know this will sound quaint to lots of readers, if not downright phony, but most of us at the newspaper take seriously the idea of shunning involvement in partisan politics.

    It’s right there in Times guidelines. “Staff members may not engage in political advocacy — as members of a campaign or an organization specifically concerned with political change. Nor may they contribute money to a partisan campaign or candidate. . . . Staff members should avoid public expressions or demonstrations of their political views — bumper stickers, lawn signs and the like.” . . .

    . . . Lots of readers say we ought to quit kidding ourselves, because we’re not kidding them.

    Better to just come out and show where you stand. If that means marching at antiwar rallies or handing out anti-abortion pamphlets, so be it.

    Bad idea. Believe it or not, we are trying to cover these controversial social issues with objectivity. And we still have the belief that people belonging to Greenpeace, for example, shouldn’t be covering the environment.

    No, that doesn’t mean we don’t have personal opinions. It just means we’re schooled that you can have an opinion and still report both sides fairly.

    And if being a party activist suggests you can’t be impartial (which it would), better not to be one. . .

    Any takers?

    Bradley J Fikes (1c6fc4)

  15. stef raises ridiculousness to new heights with every comment on this subject.

    Search the archives before proceeding, a conflict might have been disclosed there in the past. If you are reading the print edition, you may be shit out of luck I guess.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  16. “This argument conveniently ignores the facts that 1) it had been hidden until a conservative critic exposed it and 2) that which you claim has not been hidden, you also admit has not been shown to readers in the relevant place.”

    Nothing has been hidden. Her husband acted under his own name. She acted under her own. Their marriage is no secret. That’s not hiding. That’s plain sight. Just because a reader — or you, I don’t know if you are a NYT reader — doesn’t know something doesn’t mean that it is hidden.

    This is why this argument for disclosure is so silly. People act as if this has been hiding. My point about the public editor discussion is that now its in plain sight in the NYT pages too. And that this matches, even exceeds, the supposed “conflict” that the disclosure remedies.

    “stef, what you forget here is that the public editor has already said that there should have been disclosure the last time this happened…and there wasn’t, and it has happened again, and their isn’t again…”

    He wants to entirely change their ethics policy towards conflicts — because currently there is no process of disclosure. Removing someone from a story is the only remedy. I can see the point in that. Directly informing readers of a marriage like this doesn’t really give them that much information on which to base their analysis of the story.

    I don’t think that disclosure is that necessary because I think that Linda’s stories can stand on their own without us imagining that they are actually due to her husband’s influence. I think the people who dislike Linda will contine to dislike her even it is disclosed that in fact she is in an unhappy marriage.

    stef (d46171)

  17. stef, question: Do you believe that newspaper writers try to influence opinion in their articles?

    If you don’t, ok.

    But, I do. So, I want to know what their bias may be, and being married to someone with an agenda is a bias.

    That you don’t want to accept that shows that you try to explain away the simple fact that the public editor already said there is a conflict of interest that should have been exposed in the article.

    reff (bff229)

  18. Let’s try a small analogy here. Suppose a securities analyist issues a positive buy recommendation on xyz corp. Further, suppose the analyist fails to disclose that her husband is an officer/director of xyz corp with more than 5% of the stock. Would anyone here be inclined to see a possible conflict of interest? Would anyone else here(besides me) think that disclosure would be appropriate? Please note that if she worked for me, she would not be assigned to cover xyz corp.

    Bar Sinister (eb65fa)

  19. “stef, question: Do you believe that newspaper writers try to influence opinion in their articles?”

    I certainly think they try to influence. Of course your opinion may change after reading something.

    “But, I do. So, I want to know what their bias may be, and being married to someone with an agenda is a bias.”

    I dont think so. And if one does think so, we’ll have a whole lot more disclosures. For example, shoudl reporters disclose when their religious beliefs say that the subjects of the article are going to hell? when their husband’s beliefs say that? Thats ridiculous. But it is where this ‘that info might bias you’ discussion goes. Hell, she might hate her husband! would she have to disclose that ? if they were divorced?

    “Would anyone here be inclined to see a possible conflict of interest?”

    Clearly. Being married to that person means there is a financial interest at stake. But Linda’s example? no financial interest. Also, nothing like a buy recommendation in her article.

    stef (de7003)

  20. But Linda’s example? no financial interest.

    You must not count the possible benifits her husband would recieve, having a case his lawfirm has participated in talked-up in the media…

    But do you at least agree that the COULD be a percieved bias, and that her husbands acts on behalf of one of the parties should be disclosed?

    Isn’t more information better? Don’t readers have the right to decide for themselves?

    Scott Jacobs (3c07ad)

  21. “You must not count the possible benifits her husband would recieve, having a case his lawfirm has participated in talked-up in the media”

    IIRC, its non-profit. Not a law firm. And he’s an amicus. The financial connection is incredibly attenuated.

    “But do you at least agree that the COULD be a percieved bias, and that her husbands acts on behalf of one of the parties should be disclosed?”

    I don’t think it should be disclosed. I DO think lots of Linda’s personal life could lead someone to find a reason for bias. For example, she may hate her husband. She may have in the past divorced someone who works for an organization that is amicus. I don’t think those things need to be disclosed. Its way too much.

    “Isn’t more information better? Don’t readers have the right to decide for themselves?”

    They are deciding. More information is better, which is why if they hide information, that is bad. The problem with the “more information is better” argument is that it proves too much. Should she disclose also how much she loves her husband?

    I think that people can simply read her articles and decide what her opinion is.

    stef (034065)

  22. Good points stef, raised by no one but you. In the future unless I know that Greenhouse does not hate her husband and is not porking someone on the side who has an interest in the cases she covers, I’m not going to consider her articles unbiased. That’s just the way it is shakes out.

    You are a buffoon.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  23. stef, I can only conclude that you believe that being married to someone will not influence their writing in a newspaper article which you agree is designed to influence opinion.

    Do you honestly believe that??? If you are married, does your husband influence your opinion? You do not think that being married to someone creates a bias in their opinions??? Unless Greenhouse COMPLETELY DISAGREES WITH HER HUSBAND’S POSITION, then her opinion is influenced. Do you think she did not discuss the article with him? Do you think she didn’t read his brief before publishing???

    But, again, I remind you that you are arguing a position that has already been declared void by the public editor of the paper….

    Did you miss that???

    reff (99666d)

  24. “stef, I can only conclude that you believe that being married to someone will not influence their writing in a newspaper article which you agree is designed to influence opinion.”

    Then please conclude this instead: any personal relation someone has can influence their writing.

    “Unless Greenhouse COMPLETELY DISAGREES WITH HER HUSBAND’S POSITION, then her opinion is influenced”

    Just like she can have an opinion that is different than her husband’s, she can also have an opinion that is different than her work product. Lots of people that write for a living are writing for that: a living. Not their opinions.

    “Did you miss that???”

    I think he’s wrong that the disclosure policy should change.

    stef (fd066f)

  25. shorter stef – Even though the NY Times admitted that disclosure should have occurred, I am going to maintain that there was no conflict. And, when they just keep on doing it, I will argue that because it was once discussed, the failure to disclose going forward is just fine.

    Complete asshattery.

    JD (75f5c3)

  26. “Even though the NY Times admitted that disclosure should have occurred,”

    The public editor, Clark Hoyt, said more should be in her bio. From his page:

    Clark Hoyt is the readers’ representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own.

    So unless something else is going on, it is NOT true that “the NY Times admitted disclosure should have occurred,” and you’re the one with the asshattery. He also said the point was to reduce vulnerability to attacks. As I’ve said before, i think lots of people’s personal lives may impact their opinions, so I do wish them luck.

    But there is something else. In that Hoyt column, Bill Keller “endorsed” the approach of putting more information in bios. Frankly, I already said there was enough disclosure from the Hoyt column, I think a bio change will be even less. You satisfied with a change to her bio?

    Notice also he didn’t say there was a conflict. Just this perception. I agree people here are perceiving conflicts. But I think they’ll keep finding ways to perceive them no matter how much of linda’s personal life is disclosed. Even once all the influences on her opinion are disclosed, we’re still left with her opinion, and whether it impacts her professional work.

    stef (861715)

  27. Time to leave stef alone. Just as in the previous Greenhouse thread, all you assholes are wrong, progressives, Keller and Hoyt included. stef is the only one to have the correct opinion in this situation and she is bravely defending it against all logic.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  28. stef, please give me an example of a writer whose opinion pieces are different than their opinion….

    And, that writes for a living…

    Wait….never mind….daleyrocks and JD are right….and I’m wrong….

    reff (bff229)

  29. wait…

    Patterico…can we check the internet address of this, and see if stef is a sock-puppet for Linda Greenhouse???

    reff (bff229)

  30. “Time to leave stef alone. Just as in the previous Greenhouse thread, all you assholes are wrong, progressives, Keller and Hoyt included.”

    Actually, I think a lot of you assholes are mostly right. There are basically an infinite number of factors and elements of linda’s personal life that can affect her opinion. And any one of these will be something that you can hang on to in an attempt to prove or show that she may have, or even must have, a particular opinion. And then you can also show how this possibly could influence her professional writing in an improper way. My advice is for you to get to work finding out as much as you can about her and demanding disclosures as soon as you find this sort of connection!

    “stef, please give me an example of a writer whose opinion pieces are different than their opinion….”

    People are picking on her reporting, not her opinion pieces. If its her opinion pieces, then theres no problem at all. Its a opinion, after all!

    People who write advertising copy, or legal briefs, often take on the positions and opinions of their client or boss, not their own opinions. Reporters also write the stories that their profession requires, not their own opinions.

    There are other professions I can think of where I’d prefer people kept their opinions to themselves and do their jobs, like pharmacists and doctors that refuse to deal with birth control.

    stef (bfe3d2)

  31. Bradley, #14:
    That is a great post. How can Dana Parsons expect any sentient being to believe such BS, when they have the paper in front of them.
    So the LAT has an express prohibition for its’ journalists to engage in partisan politics; but, where is the prohibition against inserting those politics into the articles that they write?
    This is the meat of the matter, and is where the MSM has lost the trust of the public, and is why their readership is tanking.
    What would be more honest is if they would revamp their model, identify up-front their political bias, and give most of the paper over to political-based commentary, by-lining everything. For news, they could have a section labeled as (for example) “From the AP Newswire”, and just run that verbatim. Of course, we already know that the AP (for one) is run by whores.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  32. You couldn’t do it, could you?

    Because you know her piece, while you consider it reporting, is not just that, but also opinion….

    So, now, convince us her husband had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH HER OPINION…

    And, we can accept your premise….

    reff (bff229)

  33. stef, here is the example of the problem: The NY Times, just like the LA Times, doesn’t bother to want to know if there is a conflict, they just want to push an agenda…

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/02/the_new_york_times_fessesup_to.html

    reff (bff229)

  34. stef,

    Greenhouse can write whatever she wants (with the exception of some extreme pornography) up to and including advocating the overthrow of the government by force. The point to her and to her editors is: “Don’t piss on my back and tell me it’s raining. You’re not objective. You’re hacks with an agenda and your “newsmakers” are people you sleep with.”

    nk (4ebdf4)

  35. “So, now, convince us her husband had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH HER OPINION…”

    Why? You dont get my point: She can have the personal opinion that the administration is wrong whether it comes from her husband or her religious upbringing or the flipping of a coin. Thats distinct from her professional opinion. And frankly simply disclosing her husband’s professional opinion doesn’t tell us about her personal or even professional opinion.

    “The NY Times, just like the LA Times, doesn’t bother to want to know if there is a conflict, they just want to push an agenda…”

    If they just wanted to push an agenda, they wouldn’t have published that note, or even promoted the guy from doing some research to full author. They wouldn’t have mentioned him at all.

    stef (394243)

  36. So, Greenhouse would write a piece that is the opposite of her opinion about something?

    Also, the NYT and the LAT do push their agenda, by not bothering to check out or admit in the beginning the bias/conflicts/agendas of their writers. By mentioning it after it is brought to their attention is just an attempt to cover their tracts so they can either ignore it again later, or pretend to deal with conflicts of interest, as they have now TWICE in Greenhouse’s cases….

    reff (bff229)

  37. “So, Greenhouse would write a piece that is the opposite of her opinion about something?”

    If her opinion is that one side should have won, she’ll still write that the other side in fact won if that is what happened. If its her opinion that justice scalia should say one thing, but he in fact says another, she’ll still report what he said.

    And you’ll never know what her religion tells her about him.

    stef (861715)

  38. Did you actually read what you just wrote? No, she would not lie.

    Would she state/imply a difference of opinion?

    Hasn’t she done that already???

    I’m going to draw a parallel: I referee games, both for the fun and the financial gain. I work on the highest collegiate level. I have many relationships with people on that level, from being my coach in college and in high school, to where I went to school, to friends who, from different levels, either stood in my wedding 28 years ago, to new friends from very recent years. In every case, I report to my supervisor the potential for a conflict of interest. The supervisors have the final word.

    But, recently, a situation came up where I was an emergency fill-in for an official at a game at the University I graduated from, 30 years ago. Other than my degree, I have no other relationship with the school, not even as an alumni. But, before I walked on that court, the other coach was told, and given the option of refusing my participation. I like to believe my reputation is as good as anyone’s in the officiating world. I work other game in that conference, and I have worked my alma mater in games that are not Div. I level games. But, even with that, and even with the idea that the other coach knew me, knows of my abilities, and knows that I am solid, and accepts my presence in other games in the conference, the information was still provided, and an option was given that I not work the game.

    Why? Does that coach have the need, or the right, to know that I have a 28 year old relationship with a school that I have not even visited since I left? Yes, because of the “POTENTIAL” of a conflict of interest. The coach could choose to leave me in the game, or ask me to sit out, leaving two other officials to work, but at least was given the necessary information to make the decision.

    Why? For the same reason that the readers of these articles should know, while they are reading, that the writer has a potential conflict of interests, one that daily, and immediately, can affect her opinion on the writings. As a reader of the articles in question, I’m not given all the infomation I can be given to see a clear meaning in the words she writes.

    If I read Linda Greenhouse, and she has an opinion about what she is writing, is it her opinion, or the opinion of someone else, someone who may have a stake in the results of the opinions formed by those reading that same article, even if the article is about facts and not opinion???

    How am I supposed to trust that what she writes is not influenced by outside sources?

    reff (bff229)

  39. One last thought: even if the article is about facts, did she leave facts out, to hide meanings? Did she include usless facts to distort the meanings?

    Too many ways that the articles can be influenced, and she leaves out the most important of all: she is sleeping with a man that is trying to influence the court decisions.

    Do judges read papers???

    reff (bff229)

  40. reff…
    Integrity like yours is sorely missed in society today.

    Another Drew (a28ef4)

  41. “How am I supposed to trust that what she writes is not influenced by outside sources?”

    You can’t. Because there is an infinite number of outside sources that could craft her opinion. Like I said when this all started, should a reporter disclose when they think the subject of their story is going to hell?

    “One last thought: even if the article is about facts, did she leave facts out, to hide meanings? Did she include usless facts to distort the meanings?”

    Those are all bad things for a reporter to do. I’d say they face that situation daily, because no one is objective. I don’t see daily disclosures, however.

    “Too many ways that the articles can be influenced, and she leaves out the most important of all: she is sleeping with a man that is trying to influence the court decisions.”

    We only know that they are married. We don’t know how often they sleep together, or how much they are in love. But thats an interesting one, what if he was just her boyfriend?

    stef (8a983a)


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