TruffleGate: The New York Times Stands By M.I.A. Story


Singer M.I.A.’s Sunday New York Times profile that ran four days ago stirred up quite a bit of chaos that the Times is just getting around to responding to now.

It started when M.I.A. tweeted out writer Lynn Hirschberg’s phone number, even before the profile ran in print, and — in what’s gotta be a first — even released a diss track about the Times.

She also released recordings of her interview with Hirschberg, who responded by calling M.I.A.’s actions “unethical” and by contextualizing lines in the interview about M.I.A. ordering truffle fries to the New York Observer.

We contacted New York Times media relations, as well as NYT Public Editor Clark Hoyt. Hoyt has yet to get back to us. Diane McNulty from the Times responded about three hours after making contact with McNulty, when we asked her if the Times has comment on the allegations that Hirschberg toyed with the context of her story in order to make it appear that M.I.A. ordered bougie snack food staple truffle fries — the implication of which is hypocrisy and a strike against M.I.A.’s “street cred” — when, between M.I.A.’s recordings and Hirschberg’s statements to the Observer, it quite clearly sounds like she didn’t. The line in question:

“I kind of want to be an outsider,” she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry. “I don’t want to make the same music, sing about the same stuff, talk about the same things. If that makes me a terrorist, then I’m a terrorist.”

And McNulty’s response:


No, The Times stands by the story.



And there you have it. Some still remain unconvinced. Our own Zach Baron called Hirschberg’s profile a “low blow.” Hamilton Nolan at Gawker: “Bullshit, Lynn Hirschberg! You know that is bullshit!…The fry thing was the best line in the whole story, and it was a setup.” Nolan then goes on to note that “reporters do shit like that all the time,” and he’s correct. But maybe this is what some would call a “teachable moment,” in which “we all learn something,” mainly:

1. Non-Reporters: Don’t be the subject of a profile or everything you do can be re-contextualized, and likely will be.

2. Reporters: Be careful who you re-contextualize, especially if they’re sing-songy rappers who feel strongly about their street cred.

3. Everyone: Carry recorders, everywhere.