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The New York Times wedding announcement for former WNBC reporter-anchor Carol Anne Riddell is causing a stir online with commenters criticizing Riddell’s marriage and media columnists examining the origins of the article.
Riddell, who served as WNBC’s education reporter and Sunday evening anchor before being let go by the station in early 2009, married John Partilla, an advertising executive, in November and recently celebrated the union with a small ceremony at New York’s Mandarin Oriental hotel. The New York Times covered the marriage in its regular Sunday “Vows” section. What makes the NYT piece on Riddell’s marriage unique is that it tells the story of how she and Partilla broke up their respective marriages to be together.
As one commenter pointed out on the NYT website, “The notions of ‘Vows’ has a deliciously ironic depth of meaning here–the ones they made, but the ones they felt less compelled to honor.”
According to the article, Riddell and Partilla met in a classroom of an Upper West Side school where they both had children enrolled. “Part ‘Brady Bunch’ and part ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ their story has played out as fodder for neighborhood gossip,” writes Devan Sipher of The Times.
“Why am I being punished?” Riddell recalls asking herself about her extramarital love for Partilla. “Why did someone throw him in my path when I can’t have him?”
Forbes media columnist Jeff Bercovici wonders why the story was published at all, and why The Times opened it up to online commenters…
Why were the ex-spouses of the newlyweds not mentioned by name in the story? Did the reporter call them for comment, as basic journalistic practice would dictate? Why did the Times open up the comment board when most Vows stories are off-limits? And above all, what were the couple thinking in telling their story in a space normally reserved for feel-good, soft-focus meet-cute tales?
Bercovici caught up with Riddell and she said that she was surprised by the backlash. “We did this because we just wanted one honest account of how this happened for our sakes and for our kids’ sakes,” she told Bercovici. “There was nothing in the story we were ashamed of.”
NBC’s “Today” covered the story on Tuesday morning (although Riddell and Partilla declined an offer to participate, according to NBC). Anchor Tamron Hall described Riddell as a “TV news reporter,” making no mention that Riddell once worked for NBC’s flagship station.