Sunday, August 12, 2007

The New York Times Distorts The Noah Feldman Crop Issue

I wanted to steer clear of this nonsense, but I have finally been drawn out.

The New York Times responded to the OU's criticism by saying that the article never mentioned that the photo was cropped.
"In his essay, Mr. Feldman does not assert, as the Jewish Week claims, that he was "erased" from the photograph or that he and his wife were "stricken from the photo." Nowhere does he say, as you put it in your letter to us, that he was "deliberately cropped out" of the picture. The assertions that you and the Jewish Week attribute to the essay are assertions that are not made in the essay."
Yet, I would point out two things.

First, the article does say:
At the end, we all crowded into a big group photo, shot by the school photographer, who had taken our pictures from first grade through graduation. When the alumni newsletter came around a few months later, I happened to notice the photo. I looked, then looked again. My girlfriend and I were nowhere to be found.
All we hear is of a single photo being taken, and them not appearing in the photo. While technically you might be able to wriggle out of it, the clear implication is that there was this one shot in which he was excluded. The natural conclusion that everyone was that the photo was cropped. This is either bad writing, or deliberately evasive language.

Indeed, the Times was originally going to put in the picture, but when they saw that it had not been cropped, they didn't print it.

Second, and more importantly, they printed a letter to the editor the next week which read:

I don’t understand the passive-aggressive behavior demonstrated by Feldman’s high school. Why wasn’t something said to him at the event instead of taking him and the girlfriend out of the picture later? Perhaps this is a question for the Ethicist, but it certainly does not seem like good manners.

Arthur Goldgaber

Millburn, N.J.

If it was just selection of the picture which did not include him, why say "taking him and the girlfriend out of the picture later?" Later means not at the event. Later means cropped.

Now, this is not Arthur Goldgaber's fault. He interpreted the article logically. However, it is the fault of the New York Times Magazine for printing his letter, or printing it without a clarfying editor's note that it was not cropped. Instead, the New York Times had no problem with people continuing with this misperception, on their very pages.

A bit later, they have this letter:

Perhaps even more remarkable than the not-so-subtle exclusion of Noah Feldman and his future wife from the published version of his 10th high-school reunion photo and the yeshiva’s subsequent newsletters is Feldman’s uncommon restraint and reasoned effort in trying to understand the school’s obvious prejudice. Such intolerance, even when it comes from a once-loved source, must be exposed for what it is — a primitive, automatic evaluation of his (and his family’s) character and a denunciation of one of his most profound personal choices — and not some inscrutable Talmudic argument that trumps human decency and civilized behavior.

Russell La Valle

New Paltz, N.Y.

Once again, "from the published version of his 10th high-school reunion photo" implies that there was an earlier version of the photo in which he was present -- implying that he was cropped out. Perhaps one can wiggle out of this one, but no so much the previous one, about taking him out of the picture later.

Someone should ask the NYTimes about these letters to the editor they let pass.

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