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Volume 73, Number 15 | Aug. 6 – Aug. 12, 2003


In lifting Villager’s ideas, the Times dropped its standards

For a while, we had become inured to the New York Times lifting our stories, but we finally got sick of it.

On June 25, we sent to the New York Times over two dozen articles that closely parallel articles previously published in The Villager, and requested a review from senior New York Times management. An investigation by Connie Rosenblum, New York Times City Section editor, ensued, and the matter was referred to one of her superiors, Bill Borders, a New York Times senior editor.

After a three-week review, The Times acknowledged that The Villager’s original reporting should have been credited for some of these articles. Borders said that he agreed that “The Times seemed to show an unhealthy reliance on prior reporting in The Villager.”

The Times, however, did not respond to a request by The Villager to inform New York Times readers of this “unhealthy reliance” through a correction or editor’s note.

The New York Times sets a high standard in journalism. Its own ethics policy reads: “The Times treats it readers as fairly and openly as possible. In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.”

In this case, it is our view that the Times has not met its own high standard.

It should not be difficult for the Times to acknowledge that its writers read, and draw from, other publications. The Times needs to enforce its attribution policy to credit the efforts of other independent news gathering organizations for their original reporting. It’s a matter of fairness, professional courtesy and good journalistic ethics.

Documentaries help open our eyes to others

Two recently released documentary projects, one a book and the other a film, shed light on two different groups in our community. The first, “Stranger to the System,” an oral documentary of the Tompkins Sq. Park homeless, was compiled by a young teacher, Jim Flynn. The other, “Life on Christopher St.,” a short video project, is from producer Kimberly Gray and director Maria Clara.

Flynn’s book shows the humanity of an often-overlooked population, the longtime homeless regulars of the park and the more-transient punks who drift through in the summer.

The film project is informative about a population that has been the focus of some controversy in the last two years: the black and Latino, gay, bisexual and transgender youth who flock to Christopher St. as a safe haven where they can be themselves.

In short, both projects help us see these individuals, who some of us might objectify, for the people they are, warts and all. Those who avail themselves of these documentaries may very well find that their opinions of these often misunderstood, sometimes maligned, individuals, are altered in a positive way. Doing so would be time well spent.