The New York Times’ public editor on Thursday addressed blowback from readers and critics over the paper’s decision to enter into an “exclusive” agreement with a conservative author shopping dirt on Hillary and Bill Clinton.
“The Times should have been much more clear with readers about the nature of this arrangement,” public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote.
The paper divulged on Sunday that it had obtained an “exclusive” deal with Peter Schweizer. The disclosure came in the middle of an article about his book, “Clinton Cash,” an investigation of the power duo’s connections with foreign donors.
Sullivan fielded complaints from readers over the arrangement, airing their questions about the nature of the deal. Interviewing Times editor Matt Purdy, she reported that no money was exchanged for research on the Clintons.
Here’s what Purdy said:
Months ago, we were given early galleys of the book and offered exclusive rights to all the material in it. We declined because the publisher wanted to dictate when we would publish articles. Recently, we told the author that we wanted to do a story building on a chapter in his book that grew out of work we did in 2008. But we said there could be no conditions on what we wrote or when we published, and he agreed. We chose to focus on the material that we felt was the most newsworthy for our readers. We used the lead time to thoroughly scrutinize information in the book and to build on it using our own sources and public records.
Purdy also told Sullivan that the arrangement with Schweizer “is no different than the way we treat information from any other source. “
While praising the paper for avoiding any financial exchange, Sullivan expressed concern about the opaque nature of the deal.
“[T]he description of the ‘exclusive’ agreements, and the suggestion it contains that The Times made a deal to stay away from certain story lines is troubling,” she wrote.
The original Times article also said both Fox News and The Washington Post made a similar pact with Schweizer. TPM obtained statements by both the Times and Fox pushing back against criticism of the “agreements.”