Lame Gray Lady: NYT Scrubs Major Portion of Original Obama-Olympics Article, Inserts Meeting with McChrystal

NYTlogoWithPaper2009Those who read the New York Times's coverage of the unsuccessful results of Barack and Michelle Obama's attempt to seal the 2016 Summer Olympics bid for Chicago on Friday afternoon ('For Obama, an Unsuccessful Campaign") might want to read it again.

If it doesn't seem the same, it's because it isn't.

Blogger Weasel Zippers (HT Hot Air Headlines via Instapundit) caught the Times committing a major scrub of the story. But it's really worse than that.

An excerpt of the item's first five paragraphs posted at FreeRepublic at 4:44 Eastern Time on October 2 shows that the article was apparently originally published under the same title with Peter Baker's byline sometime Friday afternoon.

There are even more substantive differences noticed by Weasel Zippers I will get to shortly, but the first five paragraphs alone were obviously worked over, while Jeff Zeleny's name was added to the byline.

After the jump, on the left you will see the original as excerpted at FreeRepublic; on the right are the first five paragraphs currently at the Times web site (saved here at my host for future reference; click here or on the graphic to view a larger side-by-side version in a separate window):

NYTorigVsRevisedObamaOlympicBid1002

It's not too difficult to determine that the revised coverage waters down Baker's original on-the-scene observations.

Here are other items Weasel Zippers noted:

  • The reference to other politicians on the journey in the original ("On Air Force One with him Friday, Mr. Obama brought a couple cabinet officers from Illinois, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as Senator Dick Durban") went away.
  • An entire paragraph that referred to an Olympic allusion in an Obama campaign speech last year ("And the prospect of winning was too irresistible. After all, Mr. Obama has already envisioned the day when he could welcome the world to his hometown, never mind that small matter of reelection. 'In 2016, I’ll be wrapping up my second term as president, he told a rally in Chicago in June 2008. 'So I can’t think of a better way than to be marching into Washington Park ... as president of the United States and announcing to the world: Let the Games begin!'") was flushed.
  • An arrogant, victory-lap jab at critics from Rahm Emanuel (“'They shouldn’t try to make politics of this,' Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and a Chicagoan himself, told ABC News. 'I think they should take some pride in the U.S.’s win, and you know, we’ll make sure they get some good seats once Chicago does host the games.'") was deep-sixed.
  • But the Times did find room to note the existence of the president deigning to do his real job for a bit by meeting with the general in charge in Afghanistan ("Mr. Obama also used the opportunity to meet for 25 minutes with his Afghanistan commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who flew to Copenhagen from London, where he was on business. 'The biggest loss of anything on this trip was sleep,' Mr. Gibbs said.")

I should also note that a supposedly heroic Michelle Obama quote in the original ("'Take no prisoners,' she vowed") also got the memory-hole treatment.

The change in the dateline location is important to the point of this post. The Washington story is not an hours-later update of an older story; the location change means that it is a new story. Yet it carries the same URL as the older one out of Copenhagen (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/03/sports/03obama.html). There is no journalistically defensible reason for deleting the Copenhagen-based story. Yet it has indeed disappeared. Times searches on word strings deleted from the older item come up empty.

As if the Times needed any more blows to its allegedly still-existing journalistic integrity, this one can't help but beg the question of who at the White House put pressure on the Times to do what it did. Why would any journalist put themselves in the position of making people wonder if they bow to the wishes of the politically powerful? The answer may be that journalism, once thought to be at least lurking occasionally in its Manhattan hallways, is officially dead at the New York Times.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.