NYT Admits: 'Somewhat Late' on IRS Story, But Editor Swears 'We've Paid Copious Attention'

The New York Times's public editor on Friday responded to criticism about the paper's coverage of the IRS scandal, admitting: "The Times was somewhat late in beginning to cover the latest development about the lost emails." An analysis by the Media Research Center's Jeffrey Meyer on Thursday found that "in the past 6 months (183 days), the New York Times has published only 13 news items on the IRS’ targeting of Tea Party groups." 

Public editor Margaret Sullivan questioned David Joachim, the Times's Washington-based reporter, on the scant coverage. He offered an equivalence that seemed dismissive of complaints: "One side sees a Nixonian abuse of power and cover-up; the other sees an effort to smear the White House for electoral gain in the midterms. That stuff brings out passions." 

However, even Joachim acknowledged the paper wasn't highlighting the latest developments in the print edition: 

Our interest intensified on June 13, when the I.R.S. disclosed, belatedly, that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had crashed three years ago, taking a lot of her email with it.

Since then, we’ve published five articles on developments, including a lengthy explainer that tried to put the lost emails into the context of the overall scandal. None of those landed on the front page of the print newspaper, but every one of them was promoted heavily over social media and spent a long time on our home page, which is prime real estate.

Despite this, Joachim swore, "We think we’ve paid copious attention to this story, and we will continue to do so. It’s an important story."

Sullivan concluded with an admission and a pat on the back for the paper: 

The Times was somewhat late in beginning to cover the latest development about the lost emails. My office had begun to field several days’ worth of reader protests on the lack of attention when the first story finally went online. Despite that slow start and the quiet display of the subsequent stories (an analytical piece might have been a good choice for the front page), The Times has given its readers insightful coverage of a situation heavily clouded by partisan politics.

However, the MRC's Meyer pointed out that the Times is still burying the story: 

For example, on Wednesday, June 25, the New York Times buried a story on the United States Archivist accusing the IRS of not following the law in the wake of Lois Lerner's hard drive crash on page A15 and ignored the IRS’ admission of wrongdoing for leaking the tax information of the National Organization for Marriage and subsequently paid the group $50,000 in damages. 

— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.