UPDATE — Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren writes in an email: “We are still looking into whether a couple of small details were not as precise as they should’ve been, but we are confident that the story is not made-up.”
In today’s chat with readers, the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten raises questions about the May 19 New York Times Magazine “Lives” essay, “The Plane Was About to Crash. Now What?”
I am not saying this story is made up; it may well be literally true. In fact, it gets the benefit of the doubt from me because it is in The Times, and I presume The Times checks things out. But everything about how this story is presented raises red flags in my mind. I don’t know whether this is a failure of writing and editing, or something worse, but I do know it should not have been in print in this fashion, and that’s what makes me angry. When you have a story this thin and coy and suspect on its face, in small ways it subverts all feature work, which relies on a reservoir of reader trust.
Weingarten adds: “I lean toward believing it is true, or mostly true as remembered. But if it is, why was it presented in a way to raise every possible suspicion in the mind of every reasonable reader that it is totally, thoroughly piped?”
MetaFilter commenters also questioned the story. “This really doesn’t pass the smell test for me,” wrote one, while another said the piece “didn’t strike me as very wrong, maybe a little confused and dramatized.”
I asked Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren and public editor Margaret Sullivan about the essay.
I’m waiting to hear from Lindgren, but Sullivan wrote in an email: “I understand that editors are looking into questions that have been raised about ‘The Plane Was About to Crash’ … [but] as of right now, the public editor’s office isn’t involved. That usually comes later in the process, if needed.”
* Gene Weingarten: “The story is well written, but it bothers me” (washingtonpost.com)
* Is Noah Shannon’s story in the New York Times Magazine true? (metafilter.com)
* The plane was about the crash. Now what? (nytimes.com)