The New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane created a firestorm on Sunday when he criticized the paper’s Business section and DealBook for focusing its reporting for the benefit of the business community and not the broader audience he feels the paper needs to appeal to.
It’s true that, within DealBook’s range of targeted topics, it delivers some hard-hitting material. And when big news in the deal world breaks, DealBook serves as a “real-time SWAT team,” in Mr. Sorkin’s words. Its coverage Aug. 15 of Google’s bid to acquire Motorola was wall to wall and, no question, served a broad readership’s desire to understand what this might mean for Google and its quest to exploit mobile technology.
A week before that, though, when the world economic system shuddered and stock markets dropped, I was left wondering whether The Times should have spent its money not on expanding DealBook but on enlarging its stable of journalists aimed at the wider subjects of international banks and sovereign debt.
Brisbane wasn’t entirely negative, but thought that the Business section and DealBook in particular was focusing only on what web readers wanted at the expense of print subscribers.
Business editor Larry Ingrassia didn’t think Brisbane’s comments were very constructive and fired off a letter calling his column “absurd and poorly reasoned” and wondered how closely Brisbane read the paper and the financial section in particular.
From: “Ingrassia, Lawrence”
Date: 29 August, 2011 9:02:06 EDT
Subject: Public editor column
Various public editors have written many columns over the years about different aspects of Business Day’s coverage. At times I have disagreed with their perspective, but even when I have disagreed, I’ve generally felt that they were thoughtful and well considered.
Until now. For the first time, I felt that a public editor column was so absurd and so poorly reasoned that I felt compelled to write a response, which I have asked Art Brisbane to post on his blog.
I could have gone on and on, but I decided to keep it short and to the point. Here it is. Larry
Your column left me wondering how closely you read the Times – or at least our financial coverage. There is far more financial news, of all kinds, than ever before. Not less, as your column strangely asks.
On the coverage of the European debt crisis: We have written several hundred stories explaining its origins and implications over the past year and a half, and dozens of them ran on the front page. A number of these stories delved into the very questions you wondered about – including the dangerous ripple effects in the financial system if the problems aren’t solved. And other stories have explained how derivatives sold by banks both helped disguise the extent of the debt problems in some countries like Greece, but also pose concerns going forward. Maybe you missed these, but we reported them.
On DealBook: The addition of reporters has enabled The Times to expand its coverage of finance, not just the stories that you cited about what’s happening on Wall Street but public service journalism stories as well – like the banking industry’s aggressive lobbying against some of the stricter regulations approved by Congress in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown or the battle to limit the power of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to name just a couple of important running stories to which DealBook reporters have made major contributions.
Sorry, but when you start with a wrong premise and ignore the record, you end up with a wrong conclusion.
The New York Times
Brisbane is a long time newspaper man which helps explain his bias towards print journalism and his criticism of what he sees as Ingrassia’s more web-centric approach to business reporting. That could have been the end of it but for some reason Ingrassia was irritated enough to fight back against Brisbane.
In the end neither party really wins but the Times loses, as they receive a black eye from the bickering among its staff.