Deborah Solomon's Shifty Standards

NYT Magazine's "Q&A" writer not only misleads in the presentation of her interviews but in her politics as well, as shown in her disparate treatment of conservative icon William F. Buckley and inflammatory leftist Al Sharpton.

Public Editor Clark Hoyt earned his keep Sunday (piggybacking off a New York Press story by Matt Elzweig) by skewering New York Times Magazine Q& A writer Deborah Solomon forhighly questionableinterview practices.

"Though presented in a way that suggests a verbatim transcript, the order of the interview is sometimes altered, and the wording of questions is changed - for clarity or context, editors say. At least three interviews have been conducted by e-mail because the subjects couldn't speak English or had other speech difficulties. And, Solomon told me, 'Very early on, I might have inserted a question retroactively, so the interview would flow better,' a practice she said she no longer uses.

"'Questions For' came under fire recently when a reporter for New York Press, a free alternative weekly, interviewed two high-profile journalists - Amy Dickinson, the advice columnist who followed Ann Landers at The Chicago Tribune, and Ira Glass, creator of the public radio program 'This American Life' - who said their published interviews with Solomon contained questions she never asked.

"While the vast majority of Solomon's interview subjects have never complained, these are not the first who have. Last year, The Times Magazine published an angry letter from NBC's Tim Russert, who said that the portrayal of his interview with her was 'misleading, callous and hurtful.'"

Solomon, who writes in a style more than a few people find annoying, has also been faulted in Times Watch for her blatantly biased double standard toward her interview "guests."

Here are two questions from her Q & A with conservative icon William F. Buckley from July 1004.

"You have made so many offensive comments over the years. Do you regret any of them?

"You seem indifferent to suffering. Have you ever suffered yourself?"

Yet the following week Solomon interviewed inflammatory left-wing activist Al Sharpton, who has made a career out of offensive comments. Not only did she ignore Sharpton's history, she even invited the hatemonger to criticize Bill Cosby for being racist:

"I wonder how you feel about Bill Cosby's recent comment that too many African-Americans speak ungrammatical English and fail to rear their children properly. Does that strike you as racist?"

(To her credit, Solomon admitted to voting for Gore in a Q& A in November 2003.)