Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How to Dupe The New York Times: A Letter to the Editor

The New York Times (NYT) admits that it has been duped by someone who pretended to be the mayor of Paris. How did the duper ever get one over on The Paper Of Record? By writing a letter to the editor. NYT:

Editors’ Note: December 22, 2008
Earlier this morning, we posted a letter that carried the name of Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, sharply criticizing Caroline Kennedy.

This letter was a fake. It should not have been published.

Doing so violated both our standards and our procedures in publishing signed letters from our readers.

We have already expressed our regrets to Mr. Delanoë’s office and we are now doing the same to you, our readers.

This letter, like most Letters to the Editor these days, arrived by email. It is Times procedure to verify the authenticity of every letter. In this case, our staff sent an edited version of the letter to the sender of the email and did not hear back. At that point, we should have contacted Mr. Delanoë’s office to verify that he had, in fact, written to us.

We did not do that. Without that verification, the letter should never have been printed.

We are reviewing our procedures for verifying letters to avoid such an incident in the future.”

Expect this story to generate a lot of new media rulz! from the blogosphere. But you can file that in the same place you put the “Twitter is like a news wire, only better!” arguments. I’m just glad the Times can afford to have a staff big enough to verify the authenticity of every letter it prints. And I worry that this won’t be the case in the near future.


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