Andy Rosenthal defends New York Times’ softening of critical Obama editorial

New York Times | NewsDiffs | Daily Caller
New York Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal declares his paper’s update of an editorial critical of President Obama didn’t fundamentally change the meaning of the piece.

In an editorial that went live on the paper’s website Thursday, the unsigned piece “President Obama’s Dragnet” assailed the White House for its policies regarding FBI collection of Verizon phone records and the NSA’s Internet monitoring. In a scalding rebuke, the editorial read “The administration has now lost all credibility.” Later that same day, the line was changed to: “The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue.”

The change was documented on NewsDiffs.com, a site that tracks changes to online articles. The update resulted in some backlash, with conservative outlets like the Daily Caller describing the change as purposefully trying “to make it less damning of Obama.”

Times public editor Margaret Sullivan questioned Rosenthal about the changes, which were made to Friday’s print version of the editorial.

“We didn’t soften it one iota from its original intent,” Mr. Rosenthal said. Other modifications were made to the online version of the editorial to reflect news as it happened through the day on a fast-moving story; that’s not unusual.

Should the changed editorial have carried an editor’s note to explain the modification? Mr. Rosenthal says no.

“If we had changed the intent of the editorial, it would have been dishonest not to say so,” he said. “But that wasn’t the case. We don’t have to run a note every time we make an update.”

Sullivan concluded there was no need for an editor’s note, but that a tag labeling the link’s content had been updated should have been included. It also should have included a line that described why the update was made.

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  • Bill

    No, the original version was correct. This administration has worked very hard to destroy any hint of credibility. Now let them enjoy the fruits of their labors.

  • JTFloore

    huh? this item makes sense ONLY if you go to the NewsDiffs.com link to see the actual difference in the two editorials. otherwise, this item quotes the ‘original’ editorial as actually being the SAME as the ‘changed’ editorial, which makes no sense.

    it is only fair for the editorial to be revised to add “on this issue,” since that’s the actual, narrower focus of the editorial. the original editorial is NOT talking about Obama losing credibility on EVERYTHING, just on this one issue. this item is much ado about absolutely nothing. it’s a fabricated controversy, which seems to plague Obama at every turn. shame on you poynter.

    (obviously I am talking about poynter’s original post, NOT the “updated” version.)