Monday, June 25, 2007

The Times public editor speaks -- finally

The New York Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, finally touched on the "Death by Veganism" column in a column of his own, but unfortunately it falls far short of his responsibilities as the newspaper's ombudsman. His main problem with the Times editors allowing the "Death by Veganism" piece to be printed is that they didn't allow for another point of view that was supportive of veganism. Here is how Hoyt addresses the scientific points in what Nina Planck wrote:
"Rachelle Leesen, a clinical nutritionist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told me that Planck’s article 'was extremely inflammatory and full of misinformation.' She and her colleague Brenda Waber pointed me to a 2003 paper by the American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest organization for food and nutrition professionals. After reviewing the current science, the A.D.A., together with the Dietitians of Canada, declared, 'Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.'
Planck said she was aware of the A.D.A.’s position but regarded it as 'pandering' to a politically active vegan community.
I won’t rehash the scientific dispute in a case in which Planck has her experts and the A.D.A. paper cited more than 250 studies, but I think The Times owes its readers the other side, published on the op-ed page, not just in five letters to the editor that briefly took issue with her."
I'm getting so tired of this issue, but Planck does not quote a single expert in her writing. She has no attribution whatsoever. I can't understand why Hoyt can make an offhand comment about the consensus of the scientific community and compare it to Planck having her unnamed experts as reasoning why he didn't want write about the validity of what Planck wrote.
Hoyt does say the column is on shaky ground. I agree. I don't have a problem with some nut job like Planck writing anti-vegan columns, but I do have a problem with The New York Times not holding the column to high standards of journalism and at least provide some sort of attribution to what she wrote.
Hoyt's job is to critique the quality of the journalism in the Times, but he failed to recognize bad journalism and instead waxed about providing another point of view. I'm appreciative that Hoyt tried to tackle the issue of Planck's column, but he obviously wasn't hired to his current position because of his power of critique. I'm sure the management of the Times prefers it that way.

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