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What Is Happening on Eighth Avenue?

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Two New York Times reporters, as previously noted, have a forthcoming book that has material new revelations about Brett Kavanaugh and the process that led to his confirmation. As Margaret Sullivan details, the Times bungled the presentation of its own scoop in a confounding number of ways:

  • It promoted the story with a revoltingly sexist tweet.
  • It buried the story within the Sunday Review Section.
  • It strangely chose a “Yale: A Land of Contrasts” headline rather than focusing on the findings about Kavanaugh. (Compare with, say, how the Times framed the whole lot of nothing it uncovered in its Steve Bannon collaboration on Uranium One.)
  • It omitted an important qualification from a new allegation, allowing conservatives to dismiss the whole story (including the corroboration of Deborah Ramirez’s credible allegations.)

It’s deeply strange. Sullivan comments:

And, sadly, what’s been downplayed — or at least less shouted from the rooftops — is the actual news that was in the excerpt: that Stier notified senators and the FBI about what he witnessed, but the FBI chose not to investigate before Kavanaugh’s ascendancy to his lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land.

Other news organizations have followed up on that, and confirmed it. But that’s not what’s getting the most attention.

Why the Times’s excerpt was so poorly handled, on so many fronts, is murky.

I asked the highest ranking editors on the news and opinion sides of the paper — Dean Baquet and James Bennet — for interviews on Monday morning, but got no answer. (Unsurprisingly, I tended to get much better response when I was public editor of the Times from 2012 to 2016.)

I believe that is what the kids a few years ago called a “burn.”

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