Breaking the Silence of The Times

The mainstream media ended its silence this morning on the racism of The New York Times' prospective new partner – with a Nixon-esque 'non-denial denial.'
Yesterday, when I broke the story of how The New York Times Company (see ""Metro Racism" in today's top stories) had bought into a shocking and crude corporate culture of racism when it partnered with the Metro newspaper group in Boston, no one at either The Times or Metro would deign to respond to my story.

Instead, representatives of The Times said it was up to Metro to comment, and a representative of the Metro group told me not to expect a response. Obviously, executives at both companies made the determination that simply ignoring the story – after all, it only appeared in one of those obscure 'blogs' (Media is a Plural) and on the MediaChannel, an "alternative" web site deemed by some to be far out of the "mainstream" that huge corporations like The Times and Metro float in.

The arrogance of the two "communications" companies in refusing to communicate with the public about the tasteless, racist comments made by top Metro executives could not continue, however, due to the awesome, unchecked power of blogs and the internet.

First up with a demand for a response was Dan Kennedy, media critic for the Boston Phoenix. Next Jim Romenesko, whose Poynter Institute-housed media blog is essential reading for anyone in the media business, prominently posted a link to the story on his site with the headline:

Report: NYT Co. is buying into a culture of crude racism.

Soon I began hearing from Boston's mainstream media – including several calls from The Boston Globe, The Times-owned daily that is meant to execute the proposed partnership with Metro's free daily in Boston.

Soon the wall of silence cracked, and both The Times and Metro were forced to abandon their decision not to respond. By day's end, Dan Kennedy had posted responses from both The Times Company and Metro. Rather than paraphrase them, I suggest you read the statements yourself, and see if you share my amazement.

The Times, pushed unwittingly into the fray, finally admitted it was at least "discussing" the matter with its new partners at Metro, and then pushed out some pro forma pap about how it is "committed to fair treatment of all employees based on respect, accountability and standards of excellence."

The Metro statement, on the other hand, is one of the oddest "non-denial denials" seen this side of Richard Nixon and Watergate. But in essence it confirms the particulars of my original reporting, and even contains a half-hearted sort of apology for the bizarre and offensive racist comments made by top Metro executives in the past – remarks so offensive that even The Boston Globe ran a story on the controversy today, confirming my original story but centering, of course, on the "apology" offered by Metro's top executive in North America, Steve Nylund.

But thus far the august New York Times itself has yet to report on its new, racist partner.

Don't hold your breath!
This and other articles by Rory O'Connor are available on his blog.
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