Margaret Sullivan reminds rowdy NYT freelancer he’s ‘highly replaceable’

The New York Times
In a blog post, New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan takes Times Magazine freelancer Andrew Goldman to the woodshed for a Twitter exchange that showed “hideous misjudgment” on his part. Confronted by author Jennifer Weiner about a question she thought was sexist in an interview Goldman conducted, he insulted her and compared another critic to Stalin before apologizing and deactivating his Twitter account.

Times Magazine Editor Hugo Lindgren tells Sullivan he didn’t find the original question sexist, but told Goldman his Twitter behavior was “needlessly rude and insulting.”

Readers are entitled to whatever opinions they have of his work, and he needs to be comfortable with that and engage thoughtfully when appropriate, or not at all.

Weiner tells Sullivan she’d like to see Goldman do his job better; Sullivan writes: “It sounds as though he’s going to get that chance.”

Given his misbehavior on Twitter and his status as a highly replaceable freelancer, I think his editors are extraordinarily generous to give it to him.

It’s significant that the Times’ public editor is addressing how one of the organization’s writers behaved on Twitter, not in the paper’s pages. A “clear social media policy at The Times may be in order,” Sullivan writes. The Times currently does not have an explicit policy and some there like it that way. This past July, Phil Corbett, The Times’ associate managing editor for standards, told my coworker Jeff Sonderman, “in general our message is that people should be thoughtful.”

Even on Twitter, “we expect New York Times journalists to act like New York Times journalists,” Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told The New York Observer today.

On Twitter — which will disappoint me if it does not produce many “highly replaceable” jokes Thursday — Sullivan’s strong words for Goldman were mostly applauded, though CUNY professor Jeff Jarvis pushed back against her disapproval of profanity, and Gawker reporter John Cook said Goldman’s apology reset the scoreboard.

Goldman, who Sullivan did not contact, told Capital New York, “For once in my life, I think it’s best to keep my mouth shut.”

Among the women who responded (those I found, anyway) Sullivan got raves. That’s a strong validation of The Times’ decision to finally put a woman in the job — some of Sullivan’s critiques of the paper are freighted with experiences few men will ever have, and that’s connecting with readers.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/markkellner Mark A. Kellner

    As I said elsewhere (i.e., Jim Romenesko’s site), Ms. Sullivan is sure classy when she labels Goldman as “a highly replaceable freelancer.” I have no interest in Goldman’s assignment, but, c’mon, if the guy is as good as NYTMag editor thinks, why dangle the “highly replaceable” line?