NYTPicker: Times‘ Paterson Coverage Tarnished by Conflicting Narratives

DavidPaterson03052010.jpgThe NYTPicker blog has been systematically highlighting various flaws in the New York Times‘ vaunted coverage of Governor David Paterson’s now scandal-ridden administration. The Picker’s charge: that the facts of the story have taken a backseat to the development of an increasingly damaging narrative on Paterson.

There’s no question that the Paterson story is a legitimate one. We applaud the NYT for its aggressiveness in seeking to hold him accountable for his behavior.

But it has been clear from the NYTs first story focusing on the Sherr-una Booker case that we still know too little about what happened to form a full judgment of Paterson’s actions. Too many facts are still missing, or contradict each other.

The Picker’s first charge: The Times‘ reporters are basically harassing the governor about when he will resign. The Picker quotes from today’s Times story:

“Asked by reporters if he would still be governor on Friday, he said he would; asked if he would still be governor next week, he did not respond,” the NYT reported this morning.

We’re not sure this is unique to the Times at this point, especially when the New York Post today suggested on its front page that the governor should resign. Still, by focusing on calls for Paterson’s resignation, media outlets in general are getting away from discussion of the merits of the case against the governor.

The Picker’s second charge lends more weight to the first. The Times, says the Picker, has repeatedly failed to publish comment from people implicated in its reporting, in apparent defiance of its own ethical guidelines.

Finally, and most troubling, the Times has been contradicting its own reporting, while lending insufficient credence to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s ongoing — official — Paterson investigation.

The Picker highlights the Times‘ changing narrative, specifically about the number of times Paterson contacted Sherr-Una Booker, the woman who tried to press an assault case against Paterson aide David Johnson.

In other words, last week Booker’s own lawyer presented one sequence of events to the NYT — in which there was a only a single phone call between his client and the governor, with no discussion of the case — and now, in today’s NYT, “two people with direct knowledge of [Booker’s] account” have presented a completely different version of them.

The fact that these two scenarios contradict each other — meaning that one scenario simply isn’t true — isn’t mentioned anywhere in today’s NYT.

This contradiction strikes us as highly relevant, given that Saftler remains the NYT’s sole on-the-record source of information on the governor’s conversation with Booker — and that he remains Booker’s lawyer.

The Picker concludes that the Times‘ failure to highlight the changes in its own narrative reflects a somewhat unsettling neglect of the facts in favor of an ongoing series of reports that appear increasingly damaging to the governor.