A New York Times standards editor said Thursday that leaving out a Democratic senator’s party affiliation in a story on his corruption trial was a “dumb mistake.”
Phil Corbett, the standards editor, explained the outlet’s decision to not include the fact that New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is a Democrat in its initial write-up of his corruption trial as something that “shouldn’t have happened.”
Leaving out Menendez’s party affiliation was “a dumb mistake and shouldn’t have happened, as Nick and his editors would be the first to acknowledge. I don’t know if the Dem reference got lost in revisions and moving stuff around, or whether the omission just slipped by folks because they were too close to the story, which can happen,” Corbett told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.
TheNYT came under fire earlier this week when it published a story about Menendez’s upcoming federal bribery trial, but did not mention that he is Democrat. Although the story mentioned Menendez 29 times, it referred to him as “Mr. Menendez,” “Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey,” or “Mr. Menendez, a senior senator.”
It wasn’t until after people began pointing it out that Nick Corasanti, the reporter, added that Menendez is a Democrat; he called the omission “an oversight.”
Corbett said there wasn’t anything deceptive in the outlet leaving out the fact that Menendez is a Democrat.
“Partly it may be because we assume (rightly or wrongly) that some institutions are already very familiar to readers while others call for more explanation. It’s easy to cherry-pick examples, but it’s not true that we only label ‘conservative’ groups. Anyone who looks can find many, many references in The Times to ‘liberal’ or ‘left-leaning’ groups and think tanks (just as one of many examples, look at our recent stories about the New America Foundation),” Corbett said.
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