Attribution Problems With NY Times Orthodox Sex Abuse Series, Public Editor Says


After the New York Times wrote a searing two-part series earlier this month detailing the problem of sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Hasidic and Ultra-Orthdox communities, we noted that some journalists and activists thought the paper should have acknowledged its debt to other journalists.

The Times wouldn’t comment on the record on the subject, but Arthur Brisbane, the paper’s public editor, told us he was conducting his own investigation into the issue. Yesterday, Brisbane published his conclusions.

Carolyn Ryan, the Times‘s Metro Editor, told Brisbane “We were never under any illusion that we were the first outlet to report on abuse in the community, nor did we claim to be.”

But Ryan defended the paper’s lack of attribution. Even in cases where other reporters broke news first, as in the case of Hella Winston’s debunking the Brooklyn District Attorney’s claims about its hotline, Ryan said the Times‘s own long-running investigation already had the information, even if it hadn’t published it.

“In other words, what she reported was not news to us,” Ryan told Brisbane.

Brisbane wasn’t convinced, and neither were the four veteran journalists he polled on the question.

“Fairness dictates what the emerging expectations of the Internet era also dictate,” Brisbane concludes:

“Readers should be told more clearly about precedent coverage by others.

The Times has little to lose in doing so, except perhaps the impression that it got the story alone.”

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