The New York Times just paid $114,000 and apologized to the Singaporean prime minister for possibly implying that he got his job because his dad had the same job. More startling is the news that the New York Times agreed not to imply that in exchange for some unspecified benefit–presumably access to the prime minister.
The specific infraction? Apparently an International Herald Tribune writer referred to the Lee family as a “political dynasty.” That would seem to be a statement of fact or a generic description, not an argument or implication about a specific means of job-attainment. But in any event, the NYT has been bludgeoned into submission.
In 1994, Philip Bowring, a contributor to the International Herald Tribune’s op-ed page, agreed as part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this inference was not intended. We apologise to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the undertaking and the article.)
Are New York Times readers aware that the New York Times makes agreements like this? Did the article disclose that, in exchange for access, the paper had agreed not to say that the Lees were a political dynasty?
We don’t mean to be overly critical here, but we get tired of holier-than-thou mainstream media bellyaching about how only mainstream media can be trusted–when so much of the mainstream media game is granting control over coverage in exchange for access. Which certainly seems to have been the case here.
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