NY Times' 'Stealth Editing' to Undermine Sanders Was Unethical, Writes Public Editor

Election '16

In a little "stealth editing" of our own, we thought we'd share New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan's op-ed reaction on Thursday to criticism by Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi and others that Jennifer Steinhauer's article's editing by the New York Times was unethical. To add to the complexity of NYT editorial opinion, she agrees with the criticism:

My take: The changes to this story were so substantive that a reader who saw the piece when it first went up might come away with a very different sense of Mr. Sanders’s legislative accomplishments than one who saw it hours later. (The Sanders campaign shared the initial story on social media; it’s hard to imagine it would have done that if the edited version had appeared first.)

Given the level of revision, transparency with the readers required that they be given some kind of heads-up, and even an explanation.

Matt Purdy, a deputy executive director at the NYT, is among the NYT editorial staff Sullivan quotes as defending the edits. But she grants the readers' responses in an update to her article that considering that the Steinhauer article covered Sanders' legislative history, rather than breaking news, it should have been properly edited into the current election context before being published, since there is little justification that the edits were dependent on any breaking news.

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