new york times
Letters to the editor — Jan. 10, 2021
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The scandal over the New York Times’ botched “Caliphate” podcast widened Tuesday when dozens of public radio stations accused the Gray Lady of multiple “lapses in judgment” while trying to stem the controversy.
A letter posted on the website of the Public Radio Program Directors Association called it “extremely troubling” that the host of the Times’ podcast “The Daily,” Michael Barbaro, contacted journalists to “attempt to influence their coverage of errors made by Caliphate.”
The letter also faulted a “lack of transparency” by the Times’ Audio Division for “not disclosing the personal relationship between Barbaro and Lisa Tobin, [executive producer] of Caliphate, when you issued the 30-minute corrective interview that he hosted.”
In addition, the letter criticized the Times’ for reassigning star terrorism reporter Rukmini Callimachi over the Caliphate debacle “while giving greater visibility to her white male counterpart Andy Mills,” who’s been accused of inappropriate behavior toward women while working earlier at New York public radio station WNYC.
“We respectfully request that the New York Times acknowledges and takes responsibility for these lapses in judgment and takes steps to remedy them now and in the future,” PRPD President Abby Goldstein wrote.
The letter, dated Monday, was co-signed by representatives of 26 public radio stations that broadcast The Daily.
Last month, Times executive editor Dean Baquet acknowledged an “institutional failing” in the 2018 production of Caliphate after an internal investigation found “no corroboration” for the claims of its main subject, who claimed to have committed atrocities as an ISIS terrorist.
The man, who called himself Abu Huzayfah but whose real name is Shehroze Chaudhry, was arrested in Canada in September and charged with perpetrating a terrorist hoax.
In addition to Baquet’s mea culpa, the Times attached a damning, 440-word “Editor’s Note” to its Caliphate web page.
The Times also took the extraordinary steps of returning the Peabody Award that the 12-part series won, as well its citation as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting.
In response to Monday’s letter, Times Assistant Managing Editor Sam Dolnick wrote back to Goldstein and said Barbaro “deeply regrets” having “sent private messages through social media that may have made recipients feel that their criticism was unwelcome.”
“Editors have discussed their expectations with him going forward,” he added.
But Dolnick said the Times “did not see a need to make reference” to the relationship between Barbaro and Tobin because his “audio correction with Dean [Baquet]” was “not an accountability interview, which Dean had already given to [National Public Radio].”
Dolnick also said the Times took the misconduct allegations against Mills “very seriously” and called it “a mistake” to feature him in an episode of The Daily “so soon after the editor’s note” regarding Caliphate.
Barbaro and Mills both declined to comment, according to a Times story on the back-and-forth letters.
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