Patterico's Pontifications

7/6/2006

Still No Word from Baquet

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 7:03 am



I still haven’t heard back from Dean Baquet as to whether I can share with you the reason he won’t let me interview him about the Swift disclosures.

As you probably recall, I sent him an e-mail (reproduced here) asking for him to answer some tough questions about the disclosures. I forthrightly told him I am opposed to the decision –indeed, that I am appalled by it — and challenged him to face questions posed by somebody from that perspective.

I initially got an auto-reply that he was out of the office, but within hours of my request, he sent back a brief note declining the invitation.

I sent back e-mails asking him to reconsider, and, in the alternative, asking for permission to publish his reason for declining the interview invitation.

Without his permission, I’m in a gray area as to whether it’s right to publish it. In my e-mail, I didn’t announce my intent to publish his reply, whatever it was. And in his response, he didn’t say whether he was speaking on the record or not.

If I were a Times columnist, I probably wouldn’t be asking permission. Steve Lopez just published a column reprinting a lengthy e-mail exchange he had with a spokesman for Supervisor Mike Antonovich. Lopez’s e-mails didn’t say that any response would be published, and the spokesman’s responses were curt, even rude — very possibly something he didn’t want to see in the newspaper. But Lopez probably figured it was assumed that any exchange was on the record, and he apparently didn’t think twice about whether to publish the e-mails.

So I suppose, that, by the standards of the newspaper, I’d be within my rights to simply reprint Mr. Baquet’s e-mail. But I’m also confident that I don’t want to tailor my actions to the standards set by this newspaper. For reasons I’ve been talking about for years, it’s better that I make up my own mind about how to handle these questions.

I try to put myself in the position of the other person, and ask myself how I would want to be treated.

It would be different if it were the Readers’ Representative. I typically assume that my exchanges with the Readers’ Rep are on the record. Sometimes I tell her I will be publishing any response, but usually it’s just assumed. She knows who I am and knows full well that whatever she writes me is almost certain to end up on my blog, as representing the official position of the paper. I am confident that she has never been surprised to see one of her e-mails reprinted on my blog. (Jamie, if I’m wrong, please correct me.)

The same is probably true of Mr. Baquet. He probably assumed he was speaking for the record.

But I didn’t make it clear. And he and I don’t have a track record for how to handle such issues. So now I feel stuck asking for permission to reprint his e-mail, because possibly — just possibly — he intended it to be a private communication.

But I wish he’d clear it up. I understand he’s probably on vacation, but he responded to my initial request within hours, and it’s been three days since I asked him if I could publish the reason.

I would love to share his reason with you. To me, it is very revealing, and indicates a desire to avoid tough questions.

I’m guessing he realizes this, and I’m probably never going to get a response to my request to publish it.

That doesn’t seem right. I’m happy to keep it private if that’s how he intended it. But he should tell me one way or another.

UPDATE: A couple points are in order.

First, a commenter notes that, while Mr. Baquet may have responded quickly to my earlier e-mail, he may have been taking care of last-minute business on his way out the door. And he is, after all, on vacation. So while his initial response to me was quite quick, there may be valid reasons for his not getting back to me yet on my follow-up question.

So I am going to cut the guy some slack. There’s no reason not to be polite, after all.

Also, in that vein: I thought it was clear from my post that I intend to await his permission. I offered the counterarguments only to show my recognition that I am probably being, if anything, too cautious. But that’s still what I intend to do. I’ll revisit the issue on July 11, when he returns to the office, if he hasn’t already responded to me. After that, if he still doesn’t respond after a suitable time, I’ll take that as a wish that the e-mail remain private.

It seems like the right way to handle it. It may not be the way the paper handles things. But that’s how I’m going to handle it.

40 Responses to “Still No Word from Baquet”

  1. I think you’re being overly cautious. You have clearly identified yourself, your affiliation, and your purpose for writing. Had Baquet desired his response to not be made public, he could have declined to provide one, or he could have specified that his response was off the record.

    Now, quoting from the e-mail is another matter. If I were a reporter again (I was in a past life), having identified myself and absent any qualifications from the source (not for direct quotation, not for attribution, background, deep background, off the record) I would assume that any comments direcetd to me in my official capacity were on the record. General Internet etiquette is more refined than that practiced by reporters, however. It’s not considered good manners to quote from an e-mail without permission.

    In short, I wouldn’t see anything wrong with publishing the reason as long as it was paraphrased.

    But that’s my opinion, worth what you paid for it, and, nonetheless I applaud your sense of decency.

    Diffus (ead439)

  2. General Internet etiquette is more refined than that practiced by reporters, however

    That hasn’t really been my experienced.

    It’s not considered good manners to quote from an e-mail without permission.

    You’d be surprised how many bloggers don’t really care for that, and thing that anyone that comes to them in their ‘contact’ links is fair game, including posting the email addreses — with mailto links that spammers love — of the people who mail them.

    actus (ebc508)

  3. I see the LA Times continues to set low standards and fails to meet them.

    I agree with Diffus above. You could certainly paraphrase the response. The lack of response from the Times indicates a certain lack interest in addressing what has become an embarrassment for them.

    But you should probably wait until after Baquet “officially” returns from vacation. It is possible that his “out of office” response was set up, but he was still in the office and clearing his desk of pending issues before leaving. I have done similar things myself just before leaving, although when I respond during that period, I make clear that I am on my way out the door and am doing last minute checking. Perhaps his initial response was similar in origin.

    This assumes, of course, that he is not checking his e-mail while on vacation. I usually do when I’m gone, but that’s just me. It would be a courtesy to wait. (Whether the courtesy is deserved or not is another topic.)

    Bill M (d9e4b2)

  4. Diffus is right. Stop badgering the poor man and publish it.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  5. Why bother publishing it? I can probably draft a reasonable facsimile of what his response really says:

    “I realize I’ve stepped in it big time. But I’m afraid to come out and debate it, and you ignorant peasants shouldn’t bother your superiors. That goes double for anyone who regularly calls my judgement into question by referring to my product as the Daily Dog Trainer. And my decision not to debate or defend this goes triple in the case of people such as Patrick Frey who are smart enough to cut me into shreds. So there, you big meanie you!”

    And then he went back to hiding behind his Mommy’s skirts.

    Mike Myers (290636)

  6. Another alternative—imitate the NYT.
    Write Baquet. Tell him you intend to publish in three days. Invite him to convince you not to publish. If he doesn’t reply, publish. If he asks you not to, publish anyway, but claim you experienced considerable angst before doing so.
    Snark aside, you’re doing the right thing in exercising restraint and giving Baquet the benefit of the doubt.

    Kyle (dca2a1)

  7. It must be really annoying to work at a newspaper these days. In the good old days the criticism from readers was in private letters to the editor, where they could just throw them away or pretend they never received them.

    Wesson (c20d28)

  8. Well,

    Kyle beat me to the the right solution. The only thing I’d add is that you’re not the US Government and this is not a National Security issue….at least any more.

    RiverRat (54c18d)

  9. Patterico,

    According to the New York Times, the first question you should ask is “Why should you not publish?”

    John Ekdahl (1fe18c)

  10. Patterico, show class, and withhold publishing until you hear. I don’t think any of us readers really need to know what he said, I think most will assume he just ducked or avoided the interview, and that’s really all that’s necessary for now.

    Be honorable, be decent, don’t post something and then wish you hadn’t later (which the way you handled the Ken Lay was about the best way you could after you had apparently determined you were overly harsh.) No one will fault you for being too decent.

    Joel B. (872009)

  11. According to the New York Times, the first question you should ask is “Why should you not publish?”

    Comment by John Ekdahl — 7/6/2006 @ 9:18 am

    That’s easy. It allows Patrick to say to the NYT & LAT, “I’ve upped my standards. Now up yours.”

    You’ve got to love Pat Paulsen.

    Steve (649c9f)

  12. [quote]According to the New York Times, the first question you should ask is “Why should you not publish?”

    by John Ekdahl — 7/6/2006 @ 9:18 am

    That’s easy. It allows Patrick to say to the NYT & LAT, “I’ve upped my standards. Now up yours.”

    You’ve got to love Pat Paulsen.

    Steve (649c9f)

  13. Patterico, you shouldn’t ask for permission and then proceed without it.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  14. Patterico, publishing the email and disclosing the information in it are two different things. For example you have already disclosed that he rejected your request for an interview. Unless there was something unusual about the reason it would probably have been ok to disclose the reason at that time.

    However by requesting permission to disclose the reason you are implicitly offering him a chance to withhold the reason and having made such an offer I think you should honor it.

    I don’t see any reason to publish the actual email at this point.

    PS: On an unrelated topic, for the last day or so I have been getting error messages when I submit comments although they seem to be appearing as usual.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  15. It seems to me that you should e-mail him again requesting permission and say that if you do not hear back from him then you are assuming that it is not important enough to him and will publish it by a certain date.

    Rightwingsparkle (a58b05)

  16. Enough of this shilly-shallying. Baquet has been given ample time to respond. Either drop it or go ahead and set a deadline. If he doesn’t comply, post his reply.

    You have him over a barrel, he knows it, and he’s not about to make it easy for you to expose him. He’s playing for time because the longer he can put it off, the less relevant it seems. Sure, it’s a cowardly way for him to go, but he’s got no more attractive option.

    Although you could, I don’t think you’re about to follow the LAT’s lead: put Baquet’s words in a sockpuppet’s mouth and let the games begin.

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  17. Enough of this shilly-shallying. Baquet has been given ample time to respond. Either drop it or go ahead and set a deadline. If he doesn’t comply, post his reply.

    Didn’t the dude say he was going on vacation?

    actus (ebc508)

  18. You should have a signature in your email exchanges with LA Times reps that you assume you have the right to publish the emails unless they say otherwise.

    Arthur (665a76)

  19. The Los Angeles Times would publish a private letter from you, if the editors thought they could gain an advantage from it. That’s simply low class.

    I happen to think you have more class than they do.

    Dana (3e4784)

  20. As a practical matter, you do not want them not responding because they fear you will publish. So the courteous thing is also the advantageous thing for future dealings with Mr. Baquet and others who will hear about it. I do not believe that an open line of communication btween you and the editors of LAT is a bridge you want to burn.

    nk (77d95e)

  21. Perhaps you could send Mr Baquet a message
    saying that you assume his reply to you is on the record and that you plan to publish it on such and such a date unless you hear directly from him that he would prefer that you not publish it. Probably good to mark the mail such that you are notified when he reads it.

    Curious minds want to know.

    jb

    [I don’t want to make too much of it. It’s not like it’s some earthshaking reason. I just thought it was kind of lame, and would like to share it. — P]

    jb (0db120)

  22. Patterico,

    Bugger all the etiquette: take the clue from that superhero Bill Keller, and print/paraphrase the given reason because it’s a matter of “public interest.”

    That trumps everything, and *you have the power.*

    Cordially…

    Rick (048868)

  23. Bugger all the etiquette: take the clue from that superhero Bill Keller

    But Keller had permission from his sources to print. He just didn’t have permission from 3rd parties.

    [By that impeccable logic, I can just forward his e-mail to another blogger and let them print it. But I’m not going to do any of that. I’ll wait until he gets back from vacation, and if he hasn’t responded by then, I’ll assume he’s refusing permission. I probably am being too cautious, but I want to be fair and aboveboard. — Patterico]

    actus (ebc508)

  24. Re #17, “Didn’t the dude say he was going on vacation?”

    Yeah, Baquet said that, but he also replied to Patterico’s request for an interview. So, clearly, like any professional journalist, especially one who’s personally involved in a major story, he’s keeping abreast of breaking news as it develops. At a minimum, he’s got a cell phone and his staff can contact him. It’s foolish to pretend otherwise.

    So, calling him out is fair play. The man can run, but he can’t hide.

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  25. actus,

    Phooey: “public interest” trumps all. Keller’s “permission” came from lawbreaking sources anyway, so Patterico still comes out ahead.

    What Do We Want? Description Of The Reason For Evasion! When Do We Want It? NOW!!

    Cordially…

    Rick (048868)

  26. I can just forward his e-mail to another blogger and let them print it.

    Sure you can. You’d be violating the trust Keller placed in you. But the other blogger wouldn’t. Like we’ve said before: Keller didn’t break the law. But Keller’s sources did. Keller didn’t violate the trust his sources placed in him. But his sources violated the trust in which they were given in the information.

    At a minimum, he’s got a cell phone and his staff can contact him

    Because you if you do one piece of work on vacation, you can do any piece of work.

    actus (ebc508)

  27. No actus, because it’s simply good manners to respond promptly to a reasonable request. It’s not too much to ask and is easily accomplished, vacation or no vacation.

    Baquet’s position at the LA Times requires that he conduct himself like a professional, and be seen to do so, especially since he’s part of the story. Pattrico’s request to publish Baquet’s rejection of an interview is newsworthy, timely, and appropriate.

    Stonewalling isn’t consistent with ethical standards, personal or professional, it’s petty. But, unfortunately, it is typical of the Los Angeles Times.

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  28. No actus, because it’s simply good manners to respond promptly to a reasonable request.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think its quite professional to not do work during vacation. Its not like we’re talking malpractice here.

    actus (ebc508)

  29. A “professional,” and a journalist at that, understands that unless something was stated to be off-the-record, on background or not for attribution, then a quote or paraphrase is fair game.

    Especially when one considers the “public interest,” before which every knee must bend.

    Cordially…

    Rick (048868)

  30. I’m with Rick on this – I’m hereby and herein expressing public interest in learning Mr Baquet’s reason …

    Now, since you (Mr P) were communicating with him in his capacity as an employee of the paper, perhaps it’s time to pose the request for permission to the “Readers’ Representative” ?

    Alasdair (0c1945)

  31. If someone, especially to a person who’s in the business, doesn’t tell you that something is off the record….then it is on the record. It may look like a journalist is being inconsiderate or unethical if they print emails, conversations etc… without a persons permission but in journalism it is not. The only unethical part would be if the person you’re communicating with has no knowledge of the fact that you’re a journalist. In this case both parties are well aware of each others position so quite frankly it’s overkill to ask.

    tripp (c7359c)

  32. actus, it’s hard to accept that answering a timely “yes or no” question constitutes an unacceptably difficult task, or could be considered “working” while on vacation.

    I view the response requested of Mr Baquet as no more burdensome than responding to the query: Do you want fries with that?

    Now, you may think it’s work and you’re entitled to your opinion, and I think it’s ducking the issue. So, let’s end this tedious back and forth, and hear what Mr Baquet has to say for himself.

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  33. Actus is right about the vacation thing, I’m sorry but asking someone to stay involved at work, for something like this is just trivial, and quite frankly a little mean. If the man’s on vacation let him be on vacation. Why should he be reading e-mails let alone responding to them…it’s his life let him live it. It’s not a matter of difficult, it’s a matter of lines. On vacation I get to do what I want, and if that involves putting of responding to a blogger for 2 weeks, that’s fair. Not, doing work because Blackjack thinks I should be on call…even on my vacation. Sorry. No Dice.

    On this particular point Actus is right, and Blackjack you are wrong.

    Joel B. (872009)

  34. if you have any good dish, as an occasional voyeur of journalism, i demand to see it! the public’s right to know is sacred!

    assistant devil's advocate (a1b624)

  35. actus, it’s hard to accept that answering a timely “yes or no” question constitutes an unacceptably difficult task, or could be considered “working” while on vacation.

    Or that someone might not have email while on vacation. Sorry if that ruins your working day. But at least its not somoene’s vacation.

    actus (6234ee)

  36. I agree with actus (that sounds weird, I know). See the update to the post above. The guy is on vacation, after all. I had assumed he was checking his e-mail while on vacation, since he responded so quickly the first time. But I could be wrong about that.

    So I’ll cut him some slack. I’ll revisit it when he gets back.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  37. I think you are right to wait after vacation; but a hint would be nice.

    Jane (5a66ce)

  38. Mr. Baquet gets the benefit of the doubt? Why? It seems a little too convenient for him to be “on vacation” during a time when he faces some of the most serious questions he will ever face during his tenure. Also, didn’t you already get the “away from the office” routine during the July 4th weekend? We’re supposed to believe he takes the weekend of the 4th off, comes back for a day to check email and then goes off on another family adventure? Patterico, you may be right to wait for his official response to your request, but don’t give him the “vacation” excuse, he’s clearly stalling.

    John Ekdahl (1fe18c)

  39. Since when do journalists take vacation? My, the standards have slipped.

    sharon (fecb65)

  40. […] What about when I wrote Dean Baquet asking him if I could tell the world his reason for refusing me an interview regarding the paper’s disclosure of the legal and effective Swift counterterror program? Did I hear back from him? […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » The L.A. Times and Crickets (421107)


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