Fakin’ it: Why The New York Times Culture Editor’s Defense of Alessandra Stanley’s Reporting on a Segment That Never Aired is BS

Jul 3, 2012

According to Steve Myers at Poynter.org – who writes news items about journalism — “New York Times Culture Editor Jonathan Landman said he and Executive Editor Jill Abramson accept some of the responsibility for Alessandra Stanley’s mistakes in a story last week about Ann Curry’s farewell episode of the ‘Today’ show.

“The editors had encouraged Stanley to watch the morning show as well as coverage of the Supreme Court’s health care ruling. ‘We probably loaded on more than was reasonable,’ Landman said.”

TV critic Stanley’s report that ran in The New York Times had two major errors. As Myers notes, one of the errors was writing that Savannah Guthrie, who replaced Curry as co-anchor, appeared on that edition of "Today," which was broadcast on Thursday, June 28, 2012. Guthrie was not on that segment.

Furthermore, Stanley wrote, "Highlight reels are the gold watch of television news, and ‘Today’ showed a long, affectionate one of Ms. Curry, from her first days in local news to her trip to the South Pole where she planted the NBC flag. It included goofy moments clowning on the set, and also a tableau that seemed — under the circumstances — somewhat insensitive. Ms. Curry, ebullient as ever, leaned into Mr. Lauer, who was wearing an arm sling. ‘Don’t come anywhere near me with a hug,’ he said jokingly, but perhaps not entirely so."

That highlight reel never ran on “Today.” It DID appear online, but was posted last year when Curry became co-host of the show. It was not made for Curry’s departure from “Today.”

Myers writes, “According to Landman, Stanley watched part of ‘Today,’ then switched over to watch the Supreme Court coverage. She then checked the ‘Today’ website to see what she had missed. The video with the highlight reel auto-played after the segment in which Curry said goodbye. Stanley thought the highlights were part of Thursday’s show, although Lauer says in the 2011 video that Curry was being welcomed as co-anchor.”

Landman told Myers that he does not condone any mistakes appearing in The New York Times. As for this mistake and others Stanley has made in the last few years, Landman told Myers that they are "serious." But then Landman adds, "They are the kinds of mistakes that unfortunately happen when people are working fast, as we do in this line of work."

I don’t know enough about Stanley’s other mistakes to comment cogently about them, but I can tell you this: Landman is dead wrong when he says that Stanley’s mistake last week — saying the highlight reel ran on "Today" — is just something that happens “when people are working fast, as we do in this line of work.”

In fact, what Stanley did, in the way she wrote about the highlight reel that never appeared on-air, is lie to the readers of The Times. She claimed she saw it on-air, and she didn’t. If she only saw it online, why didn’t she just say so?

Furthermore, the timeline here works against the veracity of Stanley’s explanation. Curry delivered her farewell to viewers at 8:50 a.m. ET. The Supreme Court did not release its decision on healthcare until after 10 a.m. ET that same morning. Yes, there was chatter about the upcoming Supreme Court decision on various networks earlier, but why would Stanley stop watching the “Today” show so early? (By the way, it turns out that Stanley did not write about the healthcare coverage. Myers also mentions this and the timeline in his piece.)

It’s been written elsewhere that Stanley has also said she didn’t tape the "Today" show, though her assignment was to write about Curry’s farewell. Why not?

Add it all up and I’m sorry, Mr. Landman, your defense of Stanley doesn’t hold water. Plain speaking, Stanley faked it — she told us she watched a segment on TV, and then even wrote negatively about that segment — when, in fact, she watched something on the Internet that had not been broadcast.

And that’s indefensible.

4 Comments

  1. Agreed – if you’re too busy to actually do the due diligence, then get someone else to write it correctly. This was just lazy.

  2. Chuck’s comment was spot on about wondering why Stanley didn’t say in the article that she saw the video online, not during the actual broadcast. If she reports assumptions as fact, she’s going down a dangerous road. Please reports the facts, people. ASSUMPTIONS ARE NOT F!%&ING FACTS.

  3. Savannah Guthrie did appear on the west coast broadcast of the Today show that day, which aired after the court released its decision.
    So your statement “that Savannah Guthrie, who replaced Curry as co-anchor, appeared on that edition of “Today,” which was broadcast on Thursday, June 28, 2012. Guthrie was not on that segment.” Is not entirely true, either.

  4. AMEN!!! News should never be falsified. Stanley should have lost all credibility with her bosses and been fired. Her report reminds me of kids that think reading a comic book of a classic is the same as reading the classic book itself. If this is really a continuation of mistakes (false reporting?), I wonder why she hasn’t been fired before? If I lie to my boss, or falsify reports, I know I will be fired. Guess high ethical standards aren’t applicable to the NY TImes. I wonder if they have any job openings?

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