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)

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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