IraqTheModel, The New York Times, and Me

This post is very much off-topic for my intentions for this blog, but I feel I should make a public comment.

I’m a frequent visitor and commenter at Jeff Jarvis’ blog BuzzMachine. Last month, Jeff posted his criticism of Sarah Boxer’s New York Times Arts section article “Pro-American Iraqi Blog Provokes Intrigue and Vitriol” about the blog IraqTheModel. Jeff criticized the article for being “irresponsible, sloppy, lazy, inaccurate, incomplete, exploitive, biased, and — worst of all — dangerous, putting the lives of its subjects at risk.” The criticism was mostly focused on the fact that Boxer gave credence to (or didn’t do enough to dispute) accusations that the people behind IraqTheModel where somehow connected or being influenced by the U.S. government, specifically the CIA. (Read her article and Jeff’s commentary for the full background.)

I made comments on BuzzMachine (see the comments sections here and here) regarding my opinions on the issue, mostly noting that perhaps the reason Boxer didn’t fully investigate the validity of such accusations was becuase she was writing a piece in the Arts section, not the News section, and her intention was to cover the “vitriol” of an online debate, not necessarily the merits of that debate. I wasn’t trying to excuse the article, but perhaps understand and explain why it was written/published in such a manner that Jeff felt was unfit for journalism. (Read through all the comments to get the full picture of my opinions and interaction with Jeff and the other commenters.)

Meanwhile, Jeff had caught the attention of Dan Okrent, the Public Editor of the NY Times. Dan posted his research and response on the issue here. He was kind enough to quote some of my comments as “The wisest thing I’ve read about the controversy.” Thank you, Dan. (Here is Jeff’s response to Okrent’s post, as well as Jay Rosen’s.)

However, when I read Okrent’s piece, two errors quickly emerged. One, he attributes my comments as being made at the site, a site I had never visited. Second, he attributes a second quote to me: “Zimmer added, “Jeff [Jarvis] is half-right when he says that Boxer ‘sex[ed] up your lead and get your story atop the front of the Arts section.’ In fact, the whole story was sexed up. That’s what the Times arts section is for.” I had no recollection of making any such statement, and the comments sections on BuzzMachine had no record of me saying this.

A Google search solved the mystery. Apparently, Dan Radosh summarized my comments here, and then added their own statement of ““Jeff [Jarvis] is half-right when he says that….” I e-mailed Okrent to explain the problem, and he quickly appended my correction to his original repsonse. Radosh has cleared up the confusion as well on his own blog.

Whether or not this is the end of the story, I don’t know. But for now, I’ll return the content of the “Thinking About Technology” blog to just that….

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