Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Doping in Sport Article in the New York Times (Part 2)

The New York Times' Reply:

Dear Mr Sanchez,

Thank you for writing. How to accurately and fairly illustrate an article is something we consider every day. We are certainly aware that a newspaper page can be read as a form of shorthand -- a headline with few words, a small selection of photos, a caption that has little room for detail. Our goal is balance among all those elements, but we also credit readers with enough sense to understand that if they look at only a few parts of a package -- if they don't translate the shorthand by reading the article itself -- they're getting only part of the story.

In this case, we are comfortable with the balance of elements. In a story comparing past and present, combining similar historical and current photos is a natural choice. And as much as we can, we depict people who appear in the article, so that the caption and the story can work together to tell the full story.

And Mr. Wailoo does, in fact, refer specifically to accusations against Roger Bannister, not just later runners who broke the 4-minute mile: "The cloud over Bannister's achievement dissipated quickly; he brushed aside the charges as ridiculous and went to a distinguished medical career. In 1959, the A.M.A. study concluded that there was little evidence to the specific allegations." So a caption that mentions a cloud over Bannister's feat is both reasonable and accurate. And as you can see, Mr. Wailoo was quite careful to finish the tale -- to make it clear that, as you say, a cloud did not obliterate the sun.

Susan Wessling
Assistant to the Editor, Science
The New York Times

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