“Overheard in New York” and the NYT: Coincidence, but no Malice aforethought

Malice aforethinking.jpgThis is my favorite kind of media story – the kind with a happy ending! Today’s “Ink” column by Wendell Jamieson in the NYT was a cute round-up of eavesdropped comments overheard in New York. Which sounded suspiciously familiar to Michael Malice, who runs a blog called…”Overheard In New York.” Oops.

Mr. Malice, whom Fishbowl knows, had reason to be annoyed, and perplexed; after all, his site is not only a distinguished Urb-winning Bookmark to the Stars, but more to the point it’s no stranger to the NYT, which ran a feature on the site in February 2005. Malice and his partner, S. Morgan Friedman, have also turned “Overheard In New York” into a book — which happens to have a quote from the New York Times on the back flap, for God’s sake. They’ve even been on NY1. See? They’re famous.

To everyone who knows who they are, that is — but Wendell Jamieson was not one of those people. To Wendell, these snippets were actually things he’d overheard in New York and thought his readers would find amusing. Upshot: No malice aforethought. Now we get to the comedy of errors and near fisticuffs (which is, as we all know, the fun part). Drama-seekers, join us after the jump!

Eavesdropping on Public Theater of the Absurd [NYT]
Overheard Conversations and Jungle Guides [NYT]
Overheard in New York [OHNY]

Pic of Michael Malice courtesy of the Animal Magazine feature on New York bloggers. Photo by Shadi. Disclaimer: Fishbowl was one of the bloggers profiled.

Hello again. We left our hero, Michael Malice, steaming before his computer, having just received an article forwarded from TWO friends that looked suspiciously familiar (see above). He dashed off the email, letting the scoundrel know he’d been caught:

Hi Wendell!

I saw your piece in today’s New York Times on eavesdropping in the Big
Apple. How did you come up with such an original concept? I was thinking of starting a website like that called Newyorkeavesdropping.com. Would it be okay with you if I took your idea?

Warm regards,
Michael Malice

Cut to a newsroom on 43rd Street. Our other hero, Wendell Jamieson, also receives an email: “I actually learned of “Overheard in New York” just today when my friend and colleague, Campbell Robertson, sent me the link after reading my story.” He did not, however, click on the link, preferring instead to open an email from a reader, ’cause that’s how Wendell rolls. Replying promptly, as we all ought strive to do, Wendell wrote to Malice, saying that regarding “Newyorkeavesdropping.com,” hmmm, he thought there might already be a site like that. Which is kind of hilarious and cute, because Malice had been rather cranky.

It was at this point that we pulled a Kurt Eichenwald and became part of the story. Well not really but we did email Jamieson and asked him for comment, and let him know that the item had been posted on Gawker. At which point he explained about Campbell’s email: “I have the link but haven’t looked at it yet. That’s what I meant when I answered Michael Malice’s email.” (He also pointed out that “Metropolitan Diary” had been eavesdropping on New Yorkers for years).

But either way it was enough to get our Wendell to check out Gawker, or even – yes! – click on the link, because he sent our Michael an email explaining prior obliviousness to his existence. That, if you haven’t already gathered, is how Wendell rolls. Malice, choked up, realized that there had been no malice aforethought harm intended. “I totally believe him,” he wrote us, sobbing with relief. “And I am sending him a copy of the book.” A happy ending! Best friends! Free books! And I think we all learned a lesson here: people are totally eavesdropping on you.