Here is the text of a letter I just sent to the public editor of the New York Times.
=== === ===
Dear Public Editor of the New York Times,
The chess column of 12 June 2011 includes this sentence: “A message sent to Natsidis’s Facebook page asking him for comment was not answered.”
The sentence motivates these questions:
- Is Facebook a legitimate medium for seeking comment from public figures before publishing stories about them?
- If so, when did it become so? Is LinkedIn also considered legitimate for this purpose? What procedures are in place to ensure that reporters are not communicating with a spoofed/counterfeit identity?
- Do the formal policies of the New York Times include a list of acceptable communications media for reaching the subjects of news stories? Are reporters now burdened with trying several different media—a policy that would honor the reality that different people prioritize various communications media differently?
These and other questions bring to mind your column of 02 April 2011, in which you discuss a “move The Times should make, one that would help secure a tighter bond with its audience: publishing The Times’s journalism policies in a searchable format and in a visible location on NYTimes.com.”
You correctly point out that such a move would “enable readers to see more clearly into the news operation.” Another benefit: it would reveal the rules of the game to news subjects. If the new reality is that reporters’ due diligence for seeking comment can be satisfied merely by posting a message on a Facebook page, that reality ought to be formally—and publicly—articulated. Is it?