George W. Bush is generally thought to have cruised his way through Yale, skipping the books and racking up Cs. Not so, according to a friend of a friend of a friend, who (if he does exist) knew Bush at Yale and attests that, in fact, Bush worked his ass off for those Cs!
It's with that is mind that I indulge a little schadenfreude that Alice and I share. It seems that not only does NY Times Magazine interview columnist Deborah Solomon produce lousy reporting, but that reporting is the result of dishonest cutting, pasting and after-the-fact question writing intended to improve on the actual interviews!Big mistake doing this with people who are not only 1) famous and 2) opinionated, but also 3) alive (just ask Simon Schama, who gets away with some very creative nonfiction because Rembrandt is 340 years removed from being able to protest). Jayson Blair and Patricia Williams got caught, and their subjects managed to complain even though they didn't even exist!
From public editor Clark Hoyt's column today:
I strongly agree. There are talented interviewers out there who would love Solomon's job but insist on honest reporting. They shouldn't be punished because of Solomon and the Times Magazine's low standards.
In an interview with Columbia Journalism Review in 2005, Solomon said: “Feel free to mix the pieces of this interview around, which is what I do.”
“Is there a general protocol on that?” her questioner asked.
“There’s no Q. and A. protocol,” Solomon replied. “You can write the manual.” Solomon told me she was joking.
In fact, there is a protocol, and “Questions For” isn’t living up to it. The Times’s Manual of Style and Usage says that readers have a right to assume that every word in quotation marks is what was actually said. “Questions For” does not use quotations marks but is presented as a transcript. The manual also says ellipses should be used to signal omissions in transcripts, and that “The Times does not ‘clean up’ quotations.”
[NY Times Magazine editor Gerald] Marzorati told me, “this is an entertainment, not a newsmaker interview on ‘Meet the Press.’” But that does not relieve it of the obligation to live up to The Times’s standards or offer an explanation when it deviates from them.
... Now, I believe, if they want to preserve the illusion of a conversation, they should publish with each column a brief description of the editing standards: the order of questions may be changed, information may be added for clarity, and the transcript has been boiled down without indicating where material has been removed.
If such a disclaimer destroys the illusion, maybe “Questions For” needs to be rethought.