Bench Memos

NYT Editorialist Lincoln Caplan’s “Accountability Avoidance”?—NYT Response

On Friday, I forwarded to Arthur Brisbane, the “public editor” (or ombudsman) of the New York Times, my questions about Lincoln Caplan’s role, if any, in the house editorials about decisions of the court on which his wife, Judge Susan Carney, sits, and I have received this response today:

I queried Andrew Rosenthal [the editorial-page editor] on the matter you raised concerning Lincoln Caplan. Here is what he had to say: “We discussed this issue when Linc joined our board and we put in place ways to avoid the problem. I have no intention of discussing the authorship of any editorial. But there were no conflicts in these editorials.”

Rosenthal’s response amounts to little more than “trust me.” My specific questions asked whether Caplan “draft[ed] … or play[ed] any role in reviewing” two editorials. Rosenthal doesn’t directly answer my questions. His assertion that “there were no conflicts in these editorials” might be read to imply that his answer is no. But it’s certainly also possible that he is simply offering his bottom-line assessment that Caplan’s role (whatever it was) didn’t create a conflict, perhaps because in his judgment the unspecified “ways” that were “put in place … to avoid the problem” by definition eliminated any conflict.

Too bad that Rosenthal wouldn’t bother to say what “ways” were “put in place.” So much for transparency.

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