Accuracy in Media

In response to an inquiry from Accuracy in Media, Toby Usnik, Director of Public Relations for The New York Times Company, has defended the paper’s investigation into how Judge John Roberts and his wife adopted their children. The Times’ investigation was first reported by the Drudge Report. But the Times insists it was not an investigation.

Bob Beckel, a Democratic Party consultant, commented to Tony Snow on Fox News, “?I think this is the most absurd, ridiculous, disgraceful display by a news organization I’ve ever seen, and if we ask ourselves why do people not serve in public office this day and age, this is all you need to see.”

But here’s what the Times is claiming, through spokesman Usnik:

“Per your query, like all major news organizations, we report extensively on the life and career of any nominee or candidate for high public office. Most of the inquiries we make do not result in published articles at all; we would simply be remiss if we did not ask the questions.

“In the case of Judge Roberts’s family, our reporters made initial inquiries about the adoptions, as they did about many other aspects of his background.  They did so with great care, understanding the sensitivity of the issue.  We did not order up an investigation of the adoptions. We have not pursued the issue after the initial inquiries, which detected nothing irregular about the adoptions.

“More specifically, our reporter called a number of lawyers who handle adoptions to learn about adoption issues in general and to inquire whether adoption papers are publicly available. He was told that the rule varies from case to case and jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  At some point he was informed that the Roberts adoption papers were sealed.  He did not try to get them unsealed, nor did he try to obtain copies in any other way.  He did not hire anyone to help him.

“Our editors have made it clear that they will not stand for any gratuitous reporting about the Roberts children.Many of our staff are adoptive parents-including our executive editor-and we are particularly sensitive to the subject.”

Byron Calame, the public editor for the Times, is supposed to subject the paper to scrutiny for such coverage. Instead, however, he used an entry on his Web journal to relay a message about this matter from Bill Keller, the executive editor of the paper. Keller had said, in part: “In this case, the records are sealed, there was no hint of anything out of the ordinary, and we dropped the matter. That hardly constitutes an ‘investigation,’ and it is a long way from publishing anything.”

A true media watchdog at the mediacrity blog  says this is another example of Calame continuing in his role as public relations spokesman for Times management. “As usual,” the blog says, “Calame has no opinion-they don’t call him the Empty Suit for nothing.”

Blogs for Bush commented, “What’s next? Checking Roberts’ birth certificate to see if he was born in the United States?”

One thing is for sure: if the Times investigated that matter, the paper wouldn’t consider it an investigation. How much lower can they sink?

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