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:
    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.

Filed Under: arthur brisbane, brian stelter, helene cooper, journalism, osam bin laden, speed, twitter
Companies: ny times

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  1. identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 9 May 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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