Last night, we noticed that the New York Times Styles and Metro sections are having what appeared to be an internal DANCE OFF, as they’ve both written about the same (sober) dancing trend, in many of the same ways, within three weeks of each other. We emailed both Styles editor Stuart Emmrich and Metro editor Joe Sexton for comment on the uncanny resemblance of the two articles within such a short period of time. Sexton has yet to return comment; while Emmrich replied with the following: (UPDATE)
“These things happen.”
He’s not wrong — they do — but also, isn’t it a little crazy that it does, in the New York Times? Coincidences! He also noted that the piece ran in the Weekend Arts section, and not Metro — our bad, sorry Joe Sexton! — so we’ve reached out to culture editor Jon Landman to see what the deal is. Or if a dance-off is necessary. Or if Arts and Styles are rival dance crews, and this is going to have to be settled the old-fashioned way:
Let’s not let it come to that.
UPDATE: We’ve received a response from New York Times Arts & Leisure editor Jonathan Landman, who writes:
It was a mistake at our end. Shouldn’t have happened. The safeguards we have against this sort of thing are effective but, alas, not perfect.
Wow, know what? Not at all the response expected here, because that response was the typical white noise one gets when asking after something like this. Landman just owned up to it, and kudos to him for doing it and holding himself and his section to that standard. Whether or not Styles editor Stuart Emmrich’s comment that “these things happen” was coded or not, he’s right: they do. It doesn’t mean evil was at hand, nor does it mean the New York Times has become a slave to the sober dancing lobby. This doesn’t look like plagiarism or idea-stealing so much as either
(A) The extraction of one element of one piece to form another that would presumably go unnoticed. Much worse would be the entire sober-dancing trend reiterated, as opposed to one specific group, which happened here, or
(B) A bizarre coincidence that could, actually, make a case for there being a trend present. If two NYT writers publish identical trend-pieces within weeks of one another, does that make it a trend?
At the very least, it does to the New York Times, which is probably a more earnest result than other people purporting to have found “trends” “happening” in New York City. And like we said, it happens, even sometimes with those who work on the same blog. But lesson to writers everywhere: If you think you’re getting at something for the first time, make sure to Google it first. Also, not to underestimate the Sauron-like eye of Times-obsessives who read the paper closer than the writers who work there. We’re a weird, frightening bunch.