Calling the Times

Donald Luskin reprints the account of a NY Times reader who was disturbed by an article and decided to just pick up the phone and call the reporter. It took two weeks, but the reporter actually called back, accepted the criticism as valid, and agreed to an ongoing correspondence. His summary and directions:

The lesson is: though not every reporter may take your calls seriously or even listen to them, some will. By staying on top of these reporters, Times readers send a message that they can see through the insidious bias that finds its way into straight “news reporting.” The Times number is 212-556-1234. You will get a recording asking if you know the extension or name. Never mind the extension. Press 2 and you will be asked to state the first or last name of the party you’re trying to reach, at which point you’ll be switched to that party’s extension. Likely you’ll get a voice mail, where you can feel free to vent, keeping in mind that the more decorous your call, the more likely it will be taken seriously or even returned.

We at HonestReporting have always believed that the key to effective media critique is responding to the media outlet in one’s own, concerned voice (as opposed to forwarding an HR communique — don’t do it!). Though sheer volume can’t be ignored, a handful of carefully worded, cogent emails that express respect for the journalist can also open journalists’ eyes to an inaccuracy or misrepresentation.

And if it’s true for emails, all the more so for phone calls. Most journalists are conscientious people who really do want to get the story right. They’ll take an articulate voice-mail seriously — so let’s use this avenue more often.