Clark Hoyt vs. Andy Alexander

In striking contrast to the mendacious hackwork of Andy Alexander at the *Washington Post*, the *New York Times* has a real ombudsman in Clark Hoyt:>The Public Editor – They Still Have the Nixon Tapes to Kick Around: WITH the movie “Frost/Nixon” reviving memories of Watergate, Times readers might have been expecting major revelations when they saw this recent front-page headline: “John Dean’s Watergate Role at Issue in Nixon Tapes Feud.” Instead, they got an article reviving a decade-old argument over the editing of widely cited transcripts of the Watergate cover-up…. The article repeated accusations by a handful of critics that Stanley I. Kutler, an esteemed historian, deliberately omitted and distorted material to paint a benign portrait of Dean…. The story demonstrated The Times’s power to propel an essentially dormant dispute into the national conversation….>The article also posed serious journalistic questions…. I think The Times blew the dispute out of proportion with front-page play, allowed an attack on a respected historian’s integrity without evidence to support it…. The peg for the article, its reason for being, seemed weak: Peter Klingman, an independent historian, had submitted a manuscript to the American Historical Review, the field’s leading journal, charging Kutler with willful deception. He had made a similar charge in 2002, and it had gotten no traction…. It did not help when, less than a week later, Klingman’s manuscript was rejected. Robert Schneider, the editor of the American Historical Review, told me the piece was very much “ad hominem.” Klingman refused to let me read it.>Patricia Cohen, the reporter, said that while the manuscript was the peg for her article, she expected it to be rejected and wrote a story only because a small group of historians had started talking again about the dispute…. [I]n Cohen’s article… the most serious charge against Kutler… [was made by a man who] appeared to be the most disinterested figure…. Frederick J. Graboske… accused Kutler of deliberately mixing up two tapes, but there was no evidence in the article to back that up.>Cohen said she made sure that Kutler’s denial got on the front page…. Cohen… said she thought Graboske was a “completely straight, honest broker.” I asked Graboske how he was certain Kutler mixed the two tapes on purpose. To have done it, he said, “would have been the height of sloppiness, and Stanley is a sloppy researcher or he did it deliberately.” That is a different answer than he gave Cohen…. The Times should [not] have printed the charge without strong evidence. Journalistic balance, giving both sides, did not produce fairness….>Alison Mitchell, the weekend editor, said that when the culture desk offered the article for Page 1, she took it because she found it fascinating and a good read. Mitchell, a former education editor, said academic disputes do not get covered enough in newspapers. “We weren’t saying, ‘shocking new revelation,’ ” she said. “We were saying, ‘interesting tale about tapes.’ ” But David Greenberg, a Rutgers historian… argued that the tale… was more like the Watergate version of global warming, with most historians long ago coming to a consensus and only a few outliers arguing against it. “Professional scholarly consensus is not sacrosanct, but it should count for a lot,” he said…. Kutler said he thinks this dispute is overblown. He did not minimize Dean’s role, he said. “Dean was the action officer for the cover-up, as I describe in my book.” But Nixon was the chief figure in Watergate, he added…


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