The New York Times has received a lot of criticism lately, and the fallout from a discredited book review could serve as a microcosm of the issues the paper faces as it attempts to adapt to a changing media landscape while employing fewer editors.
The Times has accepted buyouts from several editors over the past few months — which has reduced the number of usual steps taken to vet stories. The paper wanted to "shift the balance of editors to reporters at The Times," according to top editors Dean Baquet and Joe Kahn.
Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor told Fox News “The Times is learning something a lot of news outlets have learned the hard way: cost-cutting also cuts quality," adding that “journalism is actually very difficult” and “involves a lot of moving parts and a lot of people checking facts.”
New Times columnist Michelle Goldberg recently reviewed Vanessa Grigoriadis’ new book, “Blurred Lines,” which explores the issue of consensual sex on college campuses. Goldberg accused Grigoriadis of making “baffling errors that threaten to undermine her entire book.”
The author fired back and mocked the review in a Facebook post. “Not one charge she makes in her review is correct,” Grigoriadis wrote. “I can’t believe this person has been allowed to destroy three years of my work without consequences.”
The Times was forced to issue a pair of corrections regarding Goldberg’s review, and the embarrassing situation has made headlines in a variety of publications. Goldberg eventually took to Twitter and claimed she would “give a kidney” to go back because she “made a serious error.” The Times declined comment when asked if Goldberg was disciplined for her review.
Vanity Fair reported that the inaccurate review “set off a drama within the halls of the Times,” while citing sources calling the mistake “significant” and “humiliating.”
“The Times, after all, is a place where big mistakes are seldom forgotten, and the most egregious ones can quickly become epitaphs,” Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo wrote.
Times editorial page editor James Bennet has also had a rough few months, getting caught up in Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against the paper, receiving blowback for hiring conservative columnist Bret Stephens, and hiring Goldberg as an opinion columnist.
“It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the correction-laden piece wasn’t a good look for either Goldberg or [Bennet],” Pompeo wrote. However, it appears that Bennet still has the support of Deputy Publisher A.G. Sulzberger, who told Pompeo that he “is doing a terrific job,” according to Pompeo.
Citing “multiple insiders,” Vanity Fair reported that staffers wonder if “Goldberg’s errors would have, in fact, been caught if the Times still had a free-standing, centralized copy desk, as opposed to a new system in which copy-editing and fact-checking is handled by so-called ‘strong editors’ within each department.”
“There are still good journalists at the Times… but that's like a baseball team having a great starting pitcher and lousy fielders,” Gainor said. “They need people to back them up to keep facts straight.”
Company spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha disagrees with Gainor and the anonymous staffers, telling Fox News that the paper’s “editing standards and processes are the most robust and rigorous of any news organization.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michiko Kakutani stepped down in July after a 38-year career as a result of the paper’s buyouts. The paper’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond when asked if Kakutani would have reviewed “Blurred Lines.”
The Times has had a number of issues in recent memory, including getting blasted by CIA Director Mike Pompeo in July for publishing the name of an undercover officer, getting rid of the public editor who was paid to hold the paper accountable and was called “inaccurate” by the Justice Department in August.
Vice President Mike Pence even denounced the Times last month over a story that speculated he wants to run for Trump’s job in 2020. The paper has also been ripped by former FBI Director James Comey, and is referred to as “failing” by President Trump on a regular basis. Hillary Clinton also accused the paper of "shoddy reporting" regarding her email scandal.
“We deeply regret when mistakes happen, but work to correct them as soon as possible. That’s always been the case in our newsroom, and it remains so,” Rhoades Ha said.
Goldberg and Grigoriadis did not immediately respond to separate requests for comment.
Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News.
Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.