My faith in The New York Times is restored tonight with Public Editor Margaret Sullivan’s measured but stinging rebuke of Times reporter David Streitfeld for his one-sided coverage of the Amazon/Hachette battle.
Sullivan, writing in her role as the newspaper’s ombudsman, said she has heard from many readers “that The Times is demonizing Amazon and siding with publishers and those authors who support them.” I was one of the many who wrote to her. On September 15th I emailed Sullivan and urged her to look into the matter, and I included a link to Hugh Howey’s powerful blog post that day in which Howey charged that Streitfeld “has now cemented himself as the blabbering mouthpiece for the New York publishing cartel.”
I frankly never dreamed we’d see this strong a correction of The Times’s coverage. But it makes sense, because Streitfeld is just one writer at a paper whose reporters include more nuanced and objective journalists. I am thinking in particular of David Carr, Farhad Manjoo, and the recently hired (from The Wall Street Journal) Alexandra Alter. They usually cover Amazon like any other business, not as “the end of the world as we know it,” to quote from the opening of Sullivan’s column.
Her closing two paragraphs are worth quoting verbatim:
MY take: It’s important to remember that this is a tale of digital disruption,not good and evil. The establishment figures The Times has quoted on this issue, respected and renowned though they are, should have their statements subjected to critical analysis, just as Amazon’s actions should be. The Times has given a lot of ink to one side and — in story choice, tone and display — helped to portray the retailer as a literature-killing bully instead of a hard-nosed business.
I would like to see more unemotional exploration of the economic issues; more critical questioning of the statements of big-name publishing players; and greater representation of those who think Amazon may be a boon to a book-loving culture, not its killer.
Here is the link to the column.