Al Jazeera America competitor bravely dings new venture in anonymous quote

August 20, 2013
Category: Uncategorized

The Baltimore Sun

The New York Times shouldn’t have let an anonymous source predict Al Jazeera America will get low ratings, Baltimore Sun television and media critic David Zurawik writes: “I guess, if the Times wants to be used this way, that is its right.”

But why not tell the “senior television news executive” that he or she has to be named or the quote will not be used? Or, how about telling us what network or channel they are a “senior television news executive” at, so we can judge?

The passage in question was in Brian Stelter’s Aug. 18 story about the launch of the network, which is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon:

A senior television news executive predicted that Al Jazeera America would, at the outset, receive even lower ratings than the channel it is replacing, Current TV.

On Twitter, Stelter told Zurawik the passage was a relatively small part of a 1,200-word story on the network and noted that the story is “still No. 1 most-viewed on NYT site,” which is perhaps a sign of interest in the network.

The entire conversation, which also draws in a couple of other reporters, is fascinating. As is this quote from Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, in a Q&A with Michael Kinsley: “Our standards call for not using ad hominem nor ad feminam anonymous quotes, so, we just—we don’t do that.”

A dismissal of a corporation’s commercial prospects probably doesn’t run afoul of those standards, but the question is worth considering. I asked Stelter if he had anything to add to his tweets but he told me he thought they covered his thoughts.


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