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, 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.

  • Joshua Gillin

    Joshua Gillin is a contributor to Poynter's MediaWire blog and a writer, editor and pop culture blogger for the Tampa Bay Times and its sister tabloid, tbt*.


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