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Times Report Main Page
Bill Keller
Executive Editor
The New York Times
(by hand)

September 1, 2005

Dear Mr. Keller:

Your letter to the editor in the August 21, 2005 edition of The New York Times Book Review argues eloquently for the value of journalism: "the idealism of reporters who think they can make the world better, the intellectual satisfaction of puzzling through a complicated issue, the competitive gratification of being first to discover a buried story, the pride in striving to uphold a professional code of fair play, the quest for peer recognition and, yes, the feedback from attentive and thoughtful readers. He makes no allowance for the possibility that conscientious reporters and editors are capable of setting aside their personal beliefs or standing up to their advertisers (and the prejudices of their readers) to do work they believe in."

How disappointing it was to read your words and be reminded how the Times has failed to meet these very ideals in its coverage of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, as the attached report illustrates:
  • Times reporters have missed the opportunity to gain "the intellectual satisfaction of puzzling through a complicated issue." Rather, they have ignored complex issues, such as the cost of the project, the number of jobs the project would bring, and the racial politics involved.
  • Times reporters have not been "first to discover a buried story." In fact, they have missed big stories right in front of their eyes; for example, by not covering a crucial City Council hearing.
  • Times reporters have not upheld "a professional code of fair play." For one example, stories on construction projects elsewhere have explained false projections of the number of jobs, but the Times has not done so in this case. Authorities the Times has quoted in coverage of other controversies have been ignored here.
  • Times reporters and editors have not followed up on "feedback from attentive and thoughtful readers." Many letters have been sent to the Times—we and many, many others have written them, including to the Public Editor—about flaws and biases in the Times's coverage of Atlantic Yards—to no discernible effect, either by way of response or in changed reportage.
  • Times reporters in this case have not been doing the equivalent of "standing up to their advertisers"–in this case, their parent company's business partner–"to do work [the reporters] believe in." We have a perception, if not proof, of bias: coverage shows a continued pattern of inconsistency and inattention. Given the potential for conflict of interest, the Times should take care to cover Forest City Ratner exactingly. It has not.
We genuinely hope that the Times's weak coverage of Mr. Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, and the myriad critical issues swirling around it, can be rectified in the immediate future, as this story has years to play out.


Daniel Goldstein, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn
Phillip Kellogg, Fort Greene Association
Lumi Michelle Rolley, NoLandGrab.org
Eric McClure, Park Slope Neighbors
Patti Hagan, Prospect Heights Action Coalition

Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
Assistant Managing Editor and Standards Editor Allan Siegal
Metro Editor Susan Edgerly
Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins
Editorial Board Member Carolyn Curiel
Public Editor Byron Calame