NYT Reporter Defends Herself After Confusion Over Retweet Sparks Critical Daily Caller Post

By David Cohen Comment

Jen Preston of The New York Times writes for a living, but confusion over a retweet led to some unplanned writing for her in the form of a Storify timeline to defend herself against a story posted on The Daily Caller.

According to Mashable, Preston sent tweets to White House press staffers asking what hashtag to use to mark tweets about the suggestion by President Barack Obama that people unhappy with the lack of a debt ceiling compromise should tweet their congressmen.

White House director of new media Macon Phillips responded, “.@NYT_JenPreston People responding to POTUS shld use #compromise. As he said, it is “time for #compromise on behalf of the American people.”

Preston retweeted the answer from Phillips, and Neil Munro of The Daily Caller misinterpreted the retweet as an original tweet from Preston, going on to write a post suggesting that Preston was advising the White House on Twitter policy, which spread around the Internet, including being picked up by Drudge Report.

Mashable reported that The Daily Caller item was updated, but the update did not include an explicit correction.

From Preston’s Storify post:

Did Neil P. Munro of The Daily Caller, the conservative blog, challenge my integrity as a journalist because he does not use Twitter and understand how it works? Perhaps that’s what happened here. Can’t think of any other reason — except to take a cheap shot, as The Washington Post reported.

As the social media reporter at The New York Times, I use hashtags to set up streams on TweetDeck to follow the conversation on important news events. After President Obama asked people to use Twitter to contact lawmakers about the debt ceiling on Friday, I needed to find out what hashtag to follow. I first asked my followers on Twitter if they knew. Then, on Twitter, I asked two White House aides if they could tell me. One of the WH aides responded within minutes to my question.

I did not suggest #compromise as the hashtag, as some have suggested. I was simply doing my job as a reporter, asking a follow-up question after the POTUS speech. What’s worse is that his misleading story was picked up by Yahoo! News, Drudge, Andrew Malcolm at the Los Angeles Times, Fox News, and others. Munro’s uninformed knowledge of Twitter not only questioned my integrity but unleashed a torrent of ugly attacks from right-wing and conservative Twitter users (including socks and operatives) who accused me of all sorts of things.

I didn’t know this misleading headline and story was rocketing around the Web because after my visitors left the Times, I met Maurice Carroll for a long-planned lunch outside the building. He’s an old friend who covered politics for decades at The New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, and New York Newsday. He runs the Quinnipiac Poll now. When I came back to the office, I was shocked to see the ridiculous story in The Daily Caller, and that it was being retweeted hundreds of times.

I spoke with Tucker Carlson Friday night. He called me from the Denver airport after I sent him an email saying that the “update” of the flawed story continued to report that I suggested a hashtag to the White House. He said he was going to look into it. I haven’t heard back from him yet.

Then, over the weekend came this terrific suggestion from Jeff Jarvis: Use Storify to gather the tweets so people can see for themselves under one link. So, that’s what I have done here. Don’t hesitate to ask me any questions: @nyt_jenpreston.