New York Times Standards: We Don’t Care About the Facts

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Check this email out.  It’s from the “standards editor” at the New York Times, Greg Brock.   WTF? Right?  This came to me in response to the various links I sent to stories that criticized and disputed, the premise, the statistics and conclusions in this article  “The Creative Apocalypse that Wasn’t.”  In particular I excerpted and noted when the statistics could not be logically used to support arguments or when the statistics themselves had been brought into question by other researchers.  At no time was I insulting or rude to Mr Brock personally.  I simply thought I was helping The New York Times maintain some sort of integrity, by helpfully forwarding criticism to the Standards Desk (as suggested by the office of the Public Editor).

Not only does Mr. Brock refuse to acknowledge the serious questions about the statistics used in the article he seems to resort to a gratuitous ad hominem attack on me personally.  Does this email look like it comes from someone that wants to get the facts straight?

So the premise of this blog is “The New York Times Standards Desk does not care about the facts.”   I believe that I can make this case.  May I?

  1.  Thomas Lumley  posted this article which notes that the OES changed their methodology on counting musicians, music directors and composers.   This means that the “increase” in “professional musicians” cited in this story is actually due to a change in methodology.  As Lumley keenly observes the survey began counting music teachers at schools.   Without the addition of the teachers there would have been a decrease in professional musicians. Since the author spends a lot of time discussing this key statistic,  the New York Times has an obligation to its readers to note the problems with this particular usage of the dataset.  Mr. Brock acting on behalf of the New York Times has chosen not to note this fact.
  2. In the article in question the author notes   “According to one source, the top 100 tours of 2000 captured 90 percent of all revenue, while today the top 100 capture only 43 percent.”   The problem here is that the number of tours has grown since 2000.  Therefore the top 100 tours represents a larger percentage of the tours in 2000  than it does in 2015.   For instance if the number of concerts has doubled (by some measures it has) and say 100 concert tours represented 2%  of all tours in 2000 it would only represent 1% in 2015.  So naturally the percentage of revenue received by the top 100 tours would decline.  Therefore this fact can’t be used to support the authors statement  “touring has become more egalitarian.”     I pointed out this in an email to the New York Times Public Editor and to the Standards Desk.   The standards desk has chosen not to correct or note this logical fallacy for its readers and just for good measure decided to personally insult me.
  3. The Future of Music Coalition note that they were consulted as fact checkers on this article.  The Future of Music Coalition has since declared  “NYT Magazine chose to publish without substantive change most of the things that we told them were either: a) not accurate or b) not verifiable because there is no industry consensus and the “facts” could really go either way.”   Why then did they publish the article when the fact checkers were telling them that something was wrong.  THIS ALONE REQUIRES THE PUBLIC EDITOR TO INVESTIGATE THIS INCIDENT.
  4. Many other authors have commented on shortcomings and omissions in this article.  They all appear to have valid points.  Most concern the omission of statistics and figures that would undermine the author’s rosy picture of life for creators in the digital age.  They are all linked below.   Despite all of this Greg Brock Senior Editor of Standards has declared “There will be no Correction.”  So basically no matter what facts may come to light The New York Times has officially declared in advance they will not change the article.

Amazing. I rest my case.  Truth is dead at the New York Times.

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Other sources criticizing the NY Times “The Creative Apocalypse that wasn’t.”

http://www.salon.com/2015/08/24/the_new_york_times_sells_out_artists_shallow_data_paints_a_too_rosy_picture_of_thriving_creative_class_in_the_digital_age/

http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6677568/are-creators-really-thriving-in-the-digital-age-doesnt-look-like-it

http://flavorwire.com/534772/so-about-that-ny-times-magazine-piece-on-the-creative-apocalypse-that-wasnt/

https://musictechpolicy.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/why-is-the-new-york-times-coverage-on-artist-rights-so-oddly-inconsistent/

http://futureofmusic.org/blog/2015/08/21/data-journalism-wasnt

http://www.statschat.org.nz/2015/08/22/changing-who-you-count/

View story at Medium.com

http://illusionofmore.com/steven-johnson-thesis-isnt/

9 thoughts on “New York Times Standards: We Don’t Care About the Facts

  1. So today I called and canceled my NY Times subscription, which I had for many years. Then I asked myself if my disappointment on this pathetic article was enough of a reason to give up the many articles and writers I have come to like. But then it hit me. I can go to one of a number of pirate sites to get the Times. I mean if the Times thinks the culture of free is so good for musicians certainly they would have to agree that it would also be good for journalists and news organizations. I will even encourage my friends to do the same! Sharing is Caring! Think of all the exposure they would get! And then think of all the Times T shirts and buttons they could sell. Gee, I think I did both of us a favor!

  2. Mr. Lowery,

    Thank you for taking the time to reply to the nonsensical statistical research supplied by the New York Times. You have, once again, shown everyone that the transformation of the music industry in the digital age has left an untold number of artists behind while non-musicians running tech companies have eaten up every penny they can steal.

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