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Oops They Did It Again

The New York Times: Paper of Record and Ripoff

by SUZAN MAZUR

LACERA REPORT OF MEDIA CONTACT

Prepared By: Marsha Richter

Date Of Contact: 10-08-04

Reporter’s Name: Patrick Cliff

Reporter’s Phone Number: 703-837-8998

Reporter’s Employer: New York Times

Where Will The Story Be Aired?: New York Times Magazine

When Will The Story Appear?: Unknown

Is The Story For An Opinion Piece Or A News Story?: Unknown

What Prompted The Reporter’s Interest?: Unknown

What Topics Were Covered By The Reporter?: He wanted to know the date when David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group addressed the Board of Investments. I told him that meeting minutes indicated Mr. Rubenstein made a presentation to the Board on 4/23/03.

Distribution:       Members of the Board of Retirement

Members of the Board of Investments
Marsha D. Richter, C.E.O.
Gregg Rademacher, A.E.O.
Robert R. Hill, A.E.O.       
David L. Muir, Chief Counsel 
Kenneth Shaffer, Chief Investment Officer

Funny, New York Times researcher Patrick Cliff never contacted me about the Rubenstein tape I "unearthed" (no transcript provided) and the story I broke in Progressive Review, July 1, 2003 HOW BUSH GOT BOUNCED FROM CARLYLE BOARD,, which in the last year has become famous, along with Carlyle Group Managing Director David Rubenstein.

But I did call Patrick Cliff, October 13, the night of the last presidential debate because I’d heard through the grapevine that he was re-researching my original report of Rubenstein’s comments to LACERA about George W. Bush’s unproductive years on the board of Carlyle subsidiary Caterair. My report made it to the front of the New YorkTimes magazine’s election cover story October 17, 2004 — but with Ron Suskind’s byline. 

This is another case of banditry at the New York Times.  And it comes despite the National Writers Union’s successful legal challenges on behalf of freelance writers regarding thievery by the media industry in Tasini v. The New York Times and National Geographic v. Greenberg, where the media industry has held the position that the law "allows them to steal writers’ work". 

The U.S. Copyright Office "eviscerated that claim" as National Writer’s Union president emeritus Jonathan Tasini described the victory in the 2001 case involving National Geographic: "Once again the legal system has come down in favor of the individual creator’s rights in the digital age."

Getting back to the lastest case — the "Bush Bounced" saga — Times researcher Patrick Cliff asked how I found out he was checking the story. My stomach lurched, but I ran through the story’s history. 

I told him that Joe Conason reported on and linked my Progressive Review story of July 1 in Salon, on July 2, and that Conason also mentioned and linked Democracy Now! in the column. I said that I had hand-carried the Rubenstein tape to the firehouse where DN! broadcasts, because they were interested in airing it the following day — which they did, crediting me with both securing the tape that had languished for six weeks until I picked it up, and with breaking the story. Democracy Now! Exclusive: Why The Carlyle Group Pushed George W. Bush Off Its Board

I emphasized that the story was out in Craig Unger’s paperback, House of Bush House of Saud, for the past month with credit to me in the text. That the Guardian cited the story with credit to me in its July 2003 Special Report How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power  and that UPI’s Chief White House Correspondent, Nic Horrock, wrote a column with attibution White House Watch: With friends like these .  Daily Kos, one of the hot websites, picked it up How Bush Got Bounced From the Carlyle Board and countless others — all with credit, and most over a year before the New York Times went to press.

I told Cliff that Goodman also posted her C-Span Booknotes interview on the Internet mentioning that I first exposed Rubenstein’s comments (she said she’d forgotten whether she was supposed to protect me as a source at the time of broadcast?) with a link to my original story The Exception to the Rulers – The Book , and that I’d been written into the text of Amy and David Goodman’s book.

I said that Michael Moore’s archives producer, Carl Deal, had contacted me about getting the tape for Farenheit 9-11, referred by Iron Triangle author Dan Briody. Deal said he’d read the Progressive Review story and heard the Goodman broadcast with Dan Briody’s call-in.

Finally, I asked Cliff to advise the appropriate people at the Times magazine — that I’d called and wanted credit in the piece for my work. He assured me he would contact them the next morning. I was shocked when Suskind’s piece appeared without attribution to me.

But Cliff was not the only person from the Times sniffing around before publication. David Cay Johnston contacted Sam Smith at Progressive Review about two weeks prior to publication of the Times story asking for my telephone number. I’ve only written one story for Progressive Review.

I never received a call from Johnston, but he did email me twice with his telephone number. When I returned his call the Thursday before publication of the magazine and after speaking with Patrick Cliff, Johnston seemed to momentarily forget why I’d called. 

I mentioned Progressive Review and again briefly ran through the "Bush Bounced" story history. But writing about my report seemed to have lost its urgency and Johnston fumbled for words saying that if he ran something, he would certainly credit me.

Johnston said his interest was Bush and money. I told him there was no money involved regarding the Review story. "I feel sorrry for you," he said. 

I knew then the Times story was a done deal. And on Sunday over a million hard copies of Suskind’s piece went worldwide without attribution to me. Suskind was all over the talk shows the next day and Al Gore, in a speech broadcast by C-Span, was directing people to the Suskind article.

I immediately called the Times magazine editor-in-chief Gerald Marzorati, and then Ron Suskind. Suskind admitted his error and apologized. Marzorati apologized in writing for the Times "sloppy journalistic manners," but cited "fair use" and no error. 

No? Did Marzaroti link Ron Suskind’s online story to my Review story to be nice?

Marzaroti also wrote me saying Times researchers went over the material "word for word with Carlyle," which appears disingenuous since Carlyle communications director Chris Ullman called me over a year ago and discovered during the course of our conversation that I first exposed Rubenstein’s comments. I still have the voice mail in my archives that Ullman left.

I’ve asked Marzaroti to run the original Review piece as a stand-alone in hard copy either in the Times daily paper or the magazine — which he refuses to do. 

I’ve now reported this to the paper’s ombudsman Daniel Okrent and the situation is also being reviewed by the National Writers Union.

Author, filmmaker–Weapons of Mass Deception–and human rights champion, Danny Schechter was first to publicly cry foul about the case in his Dissector blog for MediaChannel.org, October 20, which gracefully sums things up regarding authentic and independent journalism vs. archaic journalism in these laissez faire times.

"Had a call yesterday from journalist SUZAN MAZUR who unearthed a tape by an executive of the Carlyle Group. Her story was cited last Sunday in the NY Times Magazine by Ron Suskind but with nary a mention of Suzan’s work, another way in which freelancers are frequently ripped off. She protested to the Times. Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati responds:

"I have spoken with the author and the fact-checking department. I believe it would have been best, as a professional courtesy, to have mentioned in the body of Ron Suskind’s piece that you first obtained the transcript. But it is a stretch to call this an "error," . . . Would [sic] I have done is asked our website to create a link to your story online from Suskind’s story, which is receiving heavy e-mail traffic. I am sorry for any anguish this has caused you and I apologize for our sloppy journalistic manners."

SUZAN MAZUR’s reports have appeared in the Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and Fox television shows. sznmzr@aol.com