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New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt responded to the controversy over rumors stemming from the newspaper's yet-to-published profile of Gov. David Paterson.
Last week Governor Paterson slammed the newspaper for refusing to quiet salacious rumors about what would appear in the profile. The speculation was fed by Twitter and blogs, and became the basis for tabloid front pages in New York City.
"As speculation ran crazy, The Times faced angry demands from Paterson, some readers and even one of the governor's political opponents to refute the rumors," wrote Hoyt on Sunday. "The newspaper and the governor found themselves caught in an explosive collision in which new media's demand for instant information ran head-on into a traditional news organization going about its business of carefully gathering information for an article, to be published when edited and ready -- and not before.
"And so the question: Does a newspaper have an obligation to address other people's scuttlebutt about its reporting?"
Hoyt concludes that the newspaper lived up to its journalistic responsibilities by remaining silent.
"I think The Times and Paterson were caught in a terrible spot, but I think the paper is right to maintain its silence until ready to speak with an article on its own pages," he writes. "It could have denied the Paterson rumors. But what if the next time it really was looking into a scandal involving a public figure? Silence then would speak volumes. The demands for comment on work in progress could be limitless."