3 important questions in the debate over Margaret Sullivan’s criticism of Andrew Goldman

New York Times | BlackBook | The Atlantic Wire | Gawker
New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan is getting publicly edited for her suggestion that Times freelancer Andrew Goldman is lucky to have a job following a Twitter freakout.

Debate over Sullivan’s harsh column comes down to three questions:

1) Is Goldman asking appropriate questions in his New York Times Magazine pieces?

This all began because Goldman asked actress Tippi Hedren whether she’d ever considered sleeping with Alfred Hitchcock, whose pursuit of Hedren is a theme in a new autobiographical film about the actress. Novelist Jennifer Weiner tweeted that her Saturday routine now included seeing “which actress Andrew Goldman has accused of sleeping her way to the top.” Goldman responded in a moronic way. But Weiner isn’t alone in her critique of Goldman; In BlackBook, Jessica Wakeman pointed out that Hedren’s previous answer gave him an opportunity to ask about misogyny in Hollywood, but he went to a question about revenge instead.

To be clear, I don’t think Tippi Hedren is too precious that she can’t answer questions about Alfred Hitchcock’s abuse. She’s a grown woman and she’s speaking out publicly about it. But I do think any woman who comes forward about abuse — and Hedren has clearly suffered greatly by it, not the least of which in her career — deserves to be treated with more respect than the suggestion she’s seeking “revenge” by sharing her story. She’s not the one who did something wrong here; Hitchcock did. That’s sexism.

Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke notes in The New York Observer that before this dustup, Goldman “was asking all sorts of inappropriate questions in Elle.” I’m not familiar with his work in that column, but judging by the collection of lines Bloomgarden-Smoke collects — e.g., “Please speculate on the lovemaking styles of fellow broadcasters Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity” — Goldman’s use of audacious questions seems deliberate, a good way to shake up the otherwise editorially useless form of the Q&A.

In The Atlantic Wire, Jen Doll defends the way Goldman asks questions, and specifically how he questioned Hedren:

[I]f we prevent journalists from asking women, successful or otherwise—or, frankly, people of any gender—whatever questions they want to ask them, we’re doing a disservice to journalism and in fact to women. Women can handle these questions—ask us anything. If we don’t want to answer, we don’t have to. If your question assumes something that’s untrue or sexist, all the better; you’ve given us the opportunity to point that out in our response.

2) Should it matter that Goldman came across as a jerk on Twitter?

More from Jen Doll:

But, goodness, for our Twitter mistakes to be unforgivable: Is that really what we want in the pursuit of achieving good journalism or less sexism and misogyny? I can’t count how many times people have said rude, sexist, or nasty things to me, whether on Twitter or just generally online. Sometimes I respond, sometimes I am angry, sometimes I say something I regret. The human-by-way-of-Internet response to criticism is to lash out in return. …

It’s fair to call people out on the Internet and in life for doing the wrong thing. I just hope we can breathe and think and make sure we’re doing it for good and not simply for the brief pleasure of engaging in yet another Internet battle, or, possibly worse, in a quest for page views based on a “strong opinion”—because, you know, rage is great for page views, for accruing Twitter followers, for amassing armies.

That is advice, by the way, I can also take,” Gawker reporter John Cook says about Doll’s point about Twitspats. He details a back and forth he had with Weiner about Goldman, who he notes is a friend. The argument quickly became “immature and generally unhelpful,” he writes.

But basically everything about Twitter is immature and unhelpful. It is a medium suited to insults and witch hunts, not deliberative consensus-building.

We’ve heard this before. But Twitter disputes also can serve as a gateway to decent conversations, a path neither Goldman nor Cook took. “We expect New York Times journalists to act like New York Times journalists,” Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told Bloomgarden-Smoke. “It has been communicated to Andrew Goldman that his comments on Twitter were not appropriate and not in keeping with The Times’ long-standing principle that we expect our journalists to behave as thoughtfully on social media as they do in other aspects of their jobs.”

3) Is Goldman lucky to have a job?

Everyone employed as a journalist, in good times or bad, is lucky to have a job. Someone employed in a freelance capacity at one of the world’s best newspapers especially so. Cook said Sullivan was “smug and unforgiving” when she wrote that Goldman is “highly replaceable.” But she was just telling the truth.

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  • http://twitter.com/benknight8 ben knight

    Under federal law freelancers are independent contractors, and there are very specific rules on regulating their behavior, lest they be reclassified as employees. Word to the wise here.

  • Anonymous

    “Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke notes in The New York Observer that before this dustup, Goldman “was asking all sorts of inappropriate questions in Elle.” I’m not familiar with his work in that column, but judging by the collection of lines Bloomgarden-Smoke collects — e.g., “Please speculate on the lovemaking styles of fellow broadcasters Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity” — Goldman’s use of audacious questions seems deliberate, a good way to shake up the otherwise editorially useless form of the Q&A.”

    Again Poynter shows how little they care about journalism.
    They spend more time, effort and analysis and offer more opinion on this page-click magnet than following up on the effect of the huge influx of ad money on media’s disinterest in the dissembling of misleading campaign ads.
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/08/3036436/tv-watchdogs-quiet-as-political.html

    And, apparently, coming up with ” a good way to shake up” something can justify whatever the purported journalist does come up with.
    In this context of trying to determine the appropriateness of a question, I use the test of substituting one’s own parents or children in the question (here about the speculation about the lovemaking styles of Beck and Hannity).

    And what does Mr. Beaujon say needs shaking up? “[T]he otherewise editorially useless form of the Q&A.” So, to Mr. Beaujon, what amounts to a transcript of an interview is useless. And Mr. Beaujon blames the audience (the purported lack of interest in Q&A) rather than his own inability to make an interview interesting without resorting to an appeal to prurient interests, in the process putting profit (page clicks) ahead of journalism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Egg-Man/681171228 Egg Man

    fyi Goldman’s qusetions were not so bad and her answers were well revealing as well. this is a brouhaha in a twitter cup; nothing here but vaporsphere tweets: re see the reveal questjon s and her answers, nothing wrong with either qutesions or answers: The worst abuse happened after you rebuffed his advances. Actors have been known to sleep with less powerful directors for advancement in show business. Did you ever consider it? I have a strong Lutheran background, and my parents instilled in me strong morals. This was something I could never have done. I was not interested in him that way at all. I was fortunate enough to work with him, and as far as I was concerned, he ruined everything. There is a scene in “The Girl” — as well as in the Donald Spoto book it’s based on — in which Hitchcock informs you that you are to be sexually available to him any time, any place. How do you even respond to that? I said, I’ve got to get out of the contract. He said, I’ll ruin your career. And he did. He wouldn’t let me out of the contract. I’d be a really big star if he hadn’t stopped my career. There were so many people who wanted me for their films. All he said was, “She isn’t available.” That’s a mean, mean man. You’ve said that his wife, Alma, knew of his obsession with you. That couple was an enigma to all of Hollywood. At one point, she came to me during “Marnie” and said, “I’m so sorry you have to go through all of this,” and I looked at her and said, “Alma, you could stop it.” Her eyes just glazed over, and she turned and left. How did you react to the news of his death? Relief. Of course, you must not have gone to his funeral. I did. Why? I would assume the only reason you’d want to see his grave is to spit on it. You don’t get it. He ruined my career, but he didn’t ruin my life. That time of my life was over. I still admire the man for who he was.

  • Anonymous

    You know who else is highly replaceable? New York Times public editors.

  • JH

    “Everyone employed as a journalist, in good times or bad, is lucky to have a job. Someone employed in a freelance capacity at one of the world’s best newspapers especially so. Cook said Sullivan was “smug and unforgiving” when she wrote that Goldman is “highly replaceable.” But she was just telling the truth.”

    Completely agree.