NYT reporter was supposed to help fact-check a column, not send it to CIA

Mark Mazzetti reports on national security for The New York Times. He sent the text of a Maureen Dowd column that hadn’t yet been published to CIA spokesperson Marie Harf, Dylan Byers reported Tuesday morning. “this didn’t come from me….and please delete after you read,” Mazzetti wrote to Harf. “See, nothing to worry about.”

Managing Editor Dean Baquet told Byers, “I know the circumstances, and if you knew everything that’s going on, you’d know it’s much ado about nothing.” He said “The optics aren’t what they look like.”

Optics again! In July The Times’ Jeremy W. Peters wrote in July about the increasing practice of allowing political sources to approve quotes. Baquet told Peters, “We don’t like the practice” and said, “We encourage our reporters to push back.”

Not long after Peters’ piece, Washington Post reporter Daniel de Vise landed in hot water for sharing a draft with source. The Post issued guidelines strongly discouraging the practice. Washington Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said at the time that “when a story is particularly sensitive, as some national-security pieces are, or complex, as some science and policy pieces are, it can be helpful to run some wording or sections of a story past a source.”

In an email to Poynter, Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy said that’s kind of what was supposed to happen in this case:

Last August, Maureen Dowd asked Mark Mazzetti to help check a fact for her column. In the course of doing so, he sent the entire column to a CIA spokeswoman shortly before her deadline. He did this without the knowledge of Ms. Dowd. This action was a mistake that is not consistent with New York Times standards.

Related: “I’m getting tired of the wonkish use of ‘optics’ “(JimRomenesko.com)

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  • http://twitter.com/Trans_World Nicolas Rapp

    He should offer his resignation. I would if I was in his position.

  • Anonymous

    This is the same Mark Mazetti, by the way, who credulously and unskeptically and unjournalistically accepted and disseminated the meme that information garnered through torture was the main reason Bin Laden was locatedhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/29/correspondence-collusion-new-york-times-cia?commentpage=4#start-of-comments.

    The NYT itself debunked that assertion the next day.

    h/t The Sidney Hillman Foundation

  • Anonymous

    “Standing for journalism, strengthening democracy” is its slogan.

    And Poynter makes a mockery of the slogan with its casual acceptance of this egregious breach of journalistic standards.
    Again Poynter acts as if this is not big deal and does nothing to investigate when the issue involves being adversarial to the rich and powerful.
    Especially when it spend so much effort vilifying monologist Mike Daisey for stretching the truth about practices in Chinese factories manufacturing Apple products who was adversarial to the rich and powerful.

    For more thorough coverage of the issue, see here:

  • Geezer

    According to the NYT “Last August, Maureen Dowd asked Mark Mazzetti to help check a fact for
    her column. In the course of doing so, he sent the entire column to a
    CIA spokeswoman shortly before her deadline…”

    I’m sorry NYT but that explanation is BS. If you look at the emails which were released…when Mazzetti sent the column he says…”See,nothing to worry about.” He doesn’t ask if there are any factual issues, he TELLS her there is nothing to worry about. Try again NYT