Coup de 'Times'

Dictators Don't Belong in the Newsroom

Smell Test

In the June 1 New York Times Magazine, an editorial feature promoting the German car maker Audi ran directly opposite . . . a full page for Audi. Was the Times mixing business and editorial, or was someone asleep at the wheel?

The slip-up involved the What They Were Thinking page, which pairs an unusual photo with debriefings of the subjects involved. The image in question, by German photographer Burkhard Schittny, showed two women on Audi's "nose team" smelling the interiors of a new car at company headquarters. Schittny's photo is brilliant. But the juxtaposition of the editorial page and the ad seemed to send a subliminal message to consumers to "think Audi," with the Audi logo appearing quietly on each page.

"Our systems failed," explained Times Magazine editor Adam Moss. "We didn't know what ad would be facing [the feature], and when we opened the magazine after it was printed, we were horrified." Moss said that typically, What They Were Thinking ideas are pitched by photographers. But Schittny said that the Audi idea "came from the magazine." Countered Moss, "That decision was made independent of any knowledge of where ads would appear."

Related Story:
"Fear and Favor at 'The New York Times': Reviving the Good Gray Lady" by Sydney H. Schanberg

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