Frank Lockwood, the Bible Belt Blogger for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,had suspicions about a story filed early Tuesday morning from the Episcopal Church's convention in Anaheim, Calif., by Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein.
The Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly Tuesdayto open the door to consecrate more bishops who are openly gay, a move that is likely to send shock waves throughout the Anglican Communion, the global network of churches to which the Episcopal Church belongs.
But was Goodstein there to see it? Lockwood did some digging and found Goodstein had not even yet arrived at the conference in Anaheim, and showed likely sources for the quotes in her story. He accused the Times of a "dateline toe touch," the kind that got the paper's folksy Southern culture specialist Rick Bragg in trouble, for describing scenes and events he had not personally witnessed.
Google the quotes and see if you can find ANY that weren't lifted off of press releases or other people's stories - several without attribution.
I was at General Convention from Wednesday through Sunday and I never encountered anyone from the New York Times - and I was looking. In fact, I was told by church spokeswoman Neva Fox on Sunday afternoon that the Times hadn't sent a reporter to the convention.
So I was started to see a story bearing an Anaheim dateline pop up on the Times' website at 6:57 a.m. Pacific Time this morning....That's awfully early to be wrapping up interviews and to be putting the finishing touches on a story.
So I started Googling the quotes. None of them appear to have been captured by religion reporter Laurie Goodstein in Anaheim.
Lockwood went chapter and verse on some likely sources for Goodstein's reporting, all second-hand.
In her response later on Tuesday, Goodstein admitted she had not been in Anaheim for the big convention news, then got snippy with Lockwood and even requested he take down his post. From Lockwood's Tuesday evening follow-up :
I just got this e-mail from Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times defending her byline and dateline on a story that contained no original reporting and that took all of its quotes from press releases and (often unattributed) stories by the church's PR wing - the Episcopal News Service.
Goodstein says the Anaheim dateline is defensible - even though no New York Times reporters did any actual reporting in Anaheim - because the story was written after 3 a.m. ET in an Anaheim hotel room.
Goodstein says the Anaheim dateline is also justified because a California colleague did some original reporting. But according to the Times' own story: "Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from Los Angeles." Reporting from Los Angeles - not Anaheim.
Two excerpts from Goodstein's snippy response to Lockwood:
we had a reporter from our LA bureau covering the convention and the news conference last night as we realized news was breaking (she has the contributor line in our story today).
Actually, only the online version credits Rebecca Cathcart - the sole name on the print version is Goodstein's.From her response:
Collegially, as the Episcopalians might say, I request that you take your post down. It is an unfair attack job. Also, it is wrong.