How not to handle press critics.

Media criticism.
Jan. 29 2004 7:08 PM

How Not To Handle Press Critics

New York TimesMagazine contributor Peter Landesman shows the way.

Click  here for links to all of Slate's pieces about Landesman's sex-slave article, New York Times Magazine Editor Gerald Marzorati's defense of the article, and Daniel Radosh's blog entry.

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Jack—

I edit reporting and writing, alas, not the behavior of reporters and writers. Peter, in a fury—and before I ever knew of Daniel Radosh's blog posting—fired off an angry e-mail and placed an angry phone call. He was clearly upset about the Glass reference—it is a kind of blood libel in the business we do—and he was clearly out of line. When I found out about it yesterday, I e-mailed an apology to Radosh, and Landesman, I believe, has apologized to him, too. If you too felt or feel threatened, that apology extends to you, sincerely. I want you to understand that there will be absolutely no repercussions from me, the Times, or Landesman for expressing your opinions.

Best,

Gerry

Landesman writes:

Mr. Shafer,

I'd hoped to let Gerry Marzorati's letter be our last word on this issue. As to your new query my only response is sincere contrition for words spoken and written in anger. I spent four months researching a dangerous and complicated story, often accompanied by my pregnant wife (the article's photographer). I hope you'll understand what an ugly shock it was to see my work and intentions maligned. I also took the comparison to Stephen Glass—however soft and deft the allusion—as a profoundly disturbing and inappropriate smear. Nonetheless, I apologize to you and to Daniel Radosh for my unfortunate and ill-advised communication.

Peter Landesman

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I e-mailed Landesman asking if he still planned to send his lawyers after Radosh. His response in full: "No comment."

Of course, Landesman has every legal right to sue Radosh, me, or any of the critics of his sex-slave feature. But where I come from, journalists don't sue other journalists. We're supposed to be like grizzly bears, with thick hides that not even bee stings or .22 rounds can penetrate. We don't sue people who say mean or disturbing things about our work. And when we're libeled or defamed, we use the disinfectant power of the press to correct the record instead of libel attorneys.

As someone who has been bitten by and shot at by numerous critics over the years, I understand Landesman's fury. But he'll be doing the world of journalism and free expression a great service if he climbs down from his threat to sue and takes aim at Radosh with the best arrow in his quiver: Words.

******

Don't shoot me, I'm only a journalist! Shoot my e-mail box instead: pressbox@hotmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.