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NYT Defends Burying JFK Plot Story

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The New York Times admits that they made a decision to bury the JFK terror plot story; before all the details were even known, they judged that an international Islamic terrorist plot to attack one of America’s largest airports was “lame:” Reader Questions and Answers.

Q. I live in California and was astounded yesterday to look at my print edition of The Times for the article on the J.F.K. bomb plot and to find it back on page A30!

What has happened with the news judgment of your colleagues? A terrorist plot that could have badly damaged the entire economy of the nation, including those of us who live in the Bay Area, and it’s relegated to the level of bridge club reports. You might wish to suggest to your editors that your readers do not live in a vacuum, that we do have alternative sources for news and they only make The Times look foolish with such ineptitude. No wonder your circulation and advertising are falling; your editors are turning a once-honored newspaper into a dinosaur in the electronic age.

— Richard Godfrey, San Francisco

Q. Could you offer some insights on how The Times decided to play the story about the alleged J.F.K. terror plot? It was noticeably different than the way the other leading national papers played it; your placement (Metro) and coverage have been more skeptical. I’m particularly curious about why it was not considered a national story, but rather, a local one. Thanks.

— Barbara, Manhattan

A. Here’s the basic thinking on the J.F.K. story: In the years since 9/11, there have been quite a few interrupted terrorist plots. It now seems possible to exercise some judgment about their gravity. Not all plots are the same. In this case, law enforcement officials said that J.F.K. was never in immediate danger. The plotters had yet to lay out plans. They had no financing. Nor did they have any explosives. It is with all that in mind, that the editors in charge this weekend did not put this story on the front page.

In truth, the decision was widely debated even within this newsroom. At the front page meeting this morning, we took an informal poll and a few editors thought the story should have been more prominently played. Some argued it should have been fronted, regardless of the lameness of the plot, simply because it was what everyone was talking about.

And Mr. Godfrey, as to dinosaur-ism: we had the story up on nytimes.com before 1 p.m. on Saturday. The official press conference on the subject had not even started.

(Hat tip: Logical Meme.)

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