NY Times Ignores Its Own Reporter's Key Tweets In Patting Itself On The Back Over Speed Of Its Bin Laden Coverage

from the weak-sauce dept

A bunch of folks have been passing around a piece from the NY Times' "Public Editor," Arthur Brisbane, from this weekend detailing how the NY Times sprang into action to report on the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US forces a week earlier. It is an interesting read, though, as Felix Salmon notes, if you look at the details, it really shows just how incredibly arrogant and out of touch the NY Times is. There are a few key points:
  • If you read Brisbane's story alone, you might not realize that many other news organizations had already reported the story before the NY Times did. You might also not realize that it was all over Twitter by the time the NY Times got around to it.
  • Salmon points out a particularly damning point, in that Brisbane's coverage focuses mostly on the work of reporter Helene Cooper, who apparently heard from a source at 10:34 that Bin Laden had been killed. At 10:40, she got a story up on the NY Times site, and then another NY Times reporter, Jeff Zeleny, tweeted the story. But... that completely ignores the fact that Donald Rumsfeld's chief of staff, Keith Urbahn tweeted the news at 10:24, and the only reason so many people found out about that was because it was retweeted at 10:25 by NY Times reporter Brian Stelter who added the details of Urbahn's connection to Rumsfeld, thus adding credibility to the report.

    In other words, nine minutes before Cooper had the news, a different NY Times reporter had already tweeted about the news -- albeit unconfirmed. However, as Salmon notes, it really was Stelter's tweet that helped spread the news:
    For a very different look at how the Osama news broke check out SocialFlow’s exhaustive analysis of 14.8 million tweets on Sunday night. As far as Twitter is concerned, the news was broken by Keith Urbahn at 10:24pm. But it really got momentum from being retweeted at 10:25pm by NYT media reporter Brian Stelter, who added the crucial information that Urbahn is Donald Rumsfeld's chief of staff. Urbahn, here, gets the goal, but Stelter absolutely gets the assist:
    5693449522_57353dd78a_o.png
    Stelter's 55,000 followers are extremely influential people in the US media scene, and until Monday's physical newspaper started landing on subscribers' doorsteps, Stelter's tweets were the single most important thing that the NYT published on Osama
  • It gets worse. Remember, Cooper only found out the news at 10:34pm. And yet... at 10:33pm, Stelter (again) tweeted that a CBS News producer had confirmed that Bin Laden was dead, via a House Intelligence Committee aide. Brisbane ignores all of this and Salmon points out how ridiculous this is:
    How come Brisbane is ignoring all this? Stelter was way ahead of the rest of the NYT, but Brisbane incomprehensibly discounts his excellent work. That might be because he doesn't consider tweeting to be part of a NYT reporter's job; it might be because he doesn't consider retweeting to be reporting. But Brian Stelter is a prime example proving that neither is true. Brisbane should have taken this opportunity to congratulate Stelter on a job extremely well done. Instead, he is completely overlooked, in favor of tweets from Zeleny and Roberts which came out more than a quarter of an hour after Stelter had publicly jumped onto the case. Which, of course, is an eternity in the twittersphere.
  • Oh yeah, and throughout Brisbane's piece, at no point does he link to the tweets in question. Hell, he refuses to link to any non-NY Times URL.
It really is quite striking in showing the mindset of some different parts of the NY Times. A reporter like Stelter realizes what his job is: and that includes passing along important information quickly, even if it comes from competitors to the NY Times. Yet, in Brisbane's world, it seems like the only thing that exists is the NY Times, and even then, he can only acknowledge these other reporters, rather than Stelter. It's a shame. As the analysis done by SocialFlow shows, Stelter had a key role in getting the news of Bin Laden's death out to the world in a rapid fashion.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Fzzr (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 2:33pm

    The Times covered this?

    I had no idea, because I didn't check there for fear of wasting one of my precious paywall passes on something I could hear about somewhere else.

     

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    RobShaver, May 9th, 2011 @ 3:03pm

    NY Times ...

    I think they're trying to say, like Hanes underware, "It's not news until the New York Times says it's news!"

     

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    RobShaver (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:03pm

    NY Times ...

    I think they're trying to say, like Hanes underware, "It's not news until the New York Times says it's news!"

     

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    Angry Puppy (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:12pm

    The speed of huh?

    Now 16 minutes is old news?

    I think the important point is how the NYT is obviously becoming more and more irrelevant.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 3:35pm

      Re: The speed of huh?

      The death of Osama was cool back when it was less then 15 minutes old. (And yes, I did type Obama first, and had to go back and correct it.)

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 3:40pm

    If news is reported, but no one reads it because it's behind a paywall, is it really news?

     

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    quickbrownfox, May 9th, 2011 @ 4:16pm

    What does Rummy have to do with this story? He was in the previous Administration that couldn't catch bin Laden.

     

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    wg, May 9th, 2011 @ 4:27pm

    Osama drama

    Mike, I'm an egg-suckin', kiss-ass, brown-nosin', mo-fo - simply because I've discovered (over 50+ years) that schmoozn' works. That being said, I'm a big fan of yours; and, I've read a tremendous number of your posts since becoming a member (even though I'd lurked for some time before that). You're articulate, if not quite grammatically correct at times, and usually hit the nail on the head about the glaring WTF of the topic at hand. Again, that being said, I find this response of yours over this tidbit of news to be a really nice read.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 4:54pm

      Re: Osama drama

      That's funny, you just used a typical troll technique.

       

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        WG (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 5:06am

        Re: Re: Osama drama

        Troll? I've never really understood that term, especially in context of being accused of complementing someone for a job well done. What I do find interesting in the term is that it seems to be used quite frequently by those whose vocabulary is, shall we say, lacking depth. However, that being said, I will offer compliments to those who deserve them, but will also scorch the ground around those who don't. Trolling (whatever that means) is not a 'technique' that I would utilize in the course of commentary.

         

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    NotMyRealName (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 4:52pm

    The journalist equivalent of that guy that comments "first!" in the third post

     

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    Jesse Townley (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 5:21pm

    Really? Complain about REAL NYT missteps, not this.

    Couple points:
    1. 16 minutes = old news? Not everyone's tethered to twitter. I caught the breaking story on 24-hour cable news shows. If you add in commercials it was the 21st Century equivalent speed of smoke signals.

    2. I think this post misses the point. Helene Cooper CONFIRMED the news story DIRECTLY with a source (and altered her already-written 2 paragraph story from "apprehended Bin Laden" to "killed Bin Laden").

    The other NYT reporter was just re-broadcasting someone else's tweets & hadn't confirmed the news themselves.

    3. Also, the Public Editor's essay says that all kinds of NYT reporters & photographers were e-mailing back and forth about this from around 10pm on, and describes a NYT photographer's interaction w/ a White House source in that 1st half hour.

    Me, I am VERY GLAD that the NYT had a direct source confirm a breaking news story BEFORE posting it on their site.

    If I want rumors, I'll pay attention to twitter. I can wait 16 minutes to get news that's been sourced by a journalist.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 1:37am

      Re: Really? Complain about REAL NYT missteps, not this.

      1. 16 minutes = old news? Not everyone's tethered to twitter. I caught the breaking story on 24-hour cable news shows. If you add in commercials it was the 21st Century equivalent speed of smoke signals.

      Not saying it's "old news." I'm just saying that dissemination is also a key part of journalism, and Stelter did that. His tweet had a much bigger impact than Cooper's reporting.

      2. I think this post misses the point. Helene Cooper CONFIRMED the news story DIRECTLY with a source (and altered her already-written 2 paragraph story from "apprehended Bin Laden" to "killed Bin Laden").

      No, I got that point. But it's not really relevant here. Which had the bigger impact? Which was more important in the long run? And, remember, Stelter had already pointed to a confirmation before Cooper even got her confirmation.

      The other NYT reporter was just re-broadcasting someone else's tweets & hadn't confirmed the news themselves.


      Why does that matter?

      3. Also, the Public Editor's essay says that all kinds of NYT reporters & photographers were e-mailing back and forth about this from around 10pm on, and describes a NYT photographer's interaction w/ a White House source in that 1st half hour.

      Yes, but that's got nothing to do with dissemination...

      Me, I am VERY GLAD that the NYT had a direct source confirm a breaking news story BEFORE posting it on their site.


      False dichotomy. No one here said that the NY Times should have posted something on their site without confirmation.

      Sorry, Jesse, but I think you're reading something into this that I did not say. I'm pointing out that the dissemination of news is a key role for journalists, and Stelter had a huge impact on the dissemination of the news via Twitter... and that gets totally ignored here.

       

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, May 9th, 2011 @ 7:27pm

    But, But ...

    ... they were the first to report it in in the mainstream media, and that’s what counts.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 8:25pm

    Rock

    "Urbahn, here, gets the goal, but Stelter absolutely gets the assist"

    Maybe the Rock too. I still haven't heard any definitive answer as to how Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson tweeted the news also at 10:24, the same time as Urbahn-

    "at 10:24 p.m. ET last night, Johnson tweeted, “Just got word that will shock the world – Land of the free… home of the brave DAMN PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!”

    from http://www.gossipcop.com/the-rock-dwayne-johnson-osama-bin-laden-death-early-twitter-tweet/, complete transcript all over the internet.

    I suppose he could have been referencing just about anything because he doesn't actually mention Osama by name, but I can't imagine what else that would be.

     

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    Qûr Tharkasdóttir (profile), May 10th, 2011 @ 3:36am

    What really matters?

    Who cares about 16 minutes? ObL died in Dec. 2001, and his funeral was even reported at the time by Fox, of all propaganda outlets. That is the real problem about the NYT and others of the same ilk, not whether they act as sock puppets of the circles of power in a more or less efficient manner.

     

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