Two bad tastes that deserve each other, the New York Times and Geraldo Rivera, were recently locked in a death spiral over an NYT report which claimed that Fox's least worthy reporter staged a rescue photo op. It's now been resolved, their Public Editor reports in "Even Geraldo Deserves a Fair Shake" (Another writeup here).
On Sep. 5, the NYT's Alessandra Stanley's reported in her TV Watch column:
"Some reporters helped stranded victims because no police officers or rescue workers were around. (Fox's Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety.)"
Needless to say, the self-styled reporter took umbrage and threatened to sue. The self-styled newspaper held firm:
The Times informed Fox on Sept. 7 that no correction would be published. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, personally made the final decision after "multiple viewings of the videotape in question," he told me in a Sept. 8 e-mail message that defended his ruling and was later provided to other journalists.
However, the ombudsman continues:
My viewings of the videotape - at least a dozen times, including one time frame by frame - simply doesn't show me any "nudge" of any Air Force rescuer by Mr. Rivera. (Ms. Stanley declined my invitation to watch the tape with me.)...
...So if Ms. Stanley couldn't have seen the nudge, why not publish a correction? Mr. Keller's message unfortunately turns to a line of reasoning that raises, for me, a basic question of journalistic fairness. He suggests, "frankly," that in light of Mr. Rivera's reaction to the review, Ms. Stanley "would have been justified in assuming" - and therefore writing, apparently - that Mr. Rivera used "brute force" rather than merely a "nudge" on Sept. 4. (One of the on-air threats cited by Mr. Keller, however, actually was made by Bill O'Reilly.)
I find it disturbing that any Times editor would come so close to implying - almost in a tit-for-tat sense - that Mr. Rivera's bad behavior essentially entitles the paper to rely on assumptions and refuse to correct an unsupported fact...