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.

Daniel Radosh was among the first writers to criticize Peter Landesman's New York TimesMagazine cover story about sex slaves, "The Girls Next Door" (Jan. 25), posting a scornful attack on his blog the day it was published.

For his labors, Radosh earned an ugly set of threats from Landesman. And though apologies were eventually extended to Radosh by Landesman and the Times Magazine for Landesman's behavior, the writer still reserves the right to punish the blogger in court for what he wrote.

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I first heard about Radosh's piece from Radosh himself, who e-mailed me on Monday, Jan. 26, asking my opinion of the Landesman feature. (I barely know Radosh, having corresponded with him less than a dozen times over the past eight years.) I told Radosh I intended to write about Landesman's article, and in the conclusion of my column, "Sex Slaves of West 43rd Street," I quoted Radosh favorably, linked to his blog, and urged readers to follow it for further exploration of the Landesman piece. I also criticized Radosh for going over the line when he asked if Landesman was the new Stephen Glass, the notorious liar and journalistic fabricator. In his blog, Radosh answered his own rhetorical question by saying, no, Landesman isn't Glass.

(I wrote a second piece about the Landesman feature on Tuesday, "Doubting Landesman," and a third on Wednesday, "The Times Magazine Strikes Back."Times Magazine Editor Gerald Marzorati defended his writer and the feature in this Wednesday Slate "Fray" posting.)

On Monday evening, a shaken Radosh forwarded to me an e-mail in which Landesman promised Radosh legal and professional ruin at the hands of his lawyers, Times lawyers, and in the pages of the Times itself. The e-mail, which Radosh won't release in full, said the blogger would soon regret having written his column, as would Shafer of Slate. Landesman followed the e-mail with what Radosh describes as a 20-minute angry rant on the telephone, which repeated and amplified the threats. After concluding the phone call, Radosh revised his blog and expressed regrets there for having linked Landesman's name to that of Glass, writing, "Whatever problems Landesman's article has, I don't think any of it was fabricated and I shouldn't have implied such a thing."

The caller ID log on my home phone shows that a little before 10 p.m. on Monday, Landesman or someone using his telephone number called me. No message was left.

On Tuesday morning, New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent e-mailed Radosh expressing interest in his additional thoughts about the Landesman feature. On either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, Radosh described the telephone call from Landesman to Okrent and forwarded to Okrent Landesman's threatening e-mail. Radosh authorized the public editor to send it to Marzorati, which he did.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Landesman sent me an e-mail titled "Private: Not for Attribution." Respecting his request, I will not quote from it or characterize it.

By Wednesday afternoon, the big healing had begun—sort of—when Marzorati and Landesman e-mailed Radosh. Marzorati apologized for Landesman's e-mail and telephone threats and stated unequivocally that neither the Times nor its editors would retaliate against Radosh. Landesman apologized for the tone of his e-mail and phone call but did not withdraw his original threat to send his lawyers after Radosh. (Again, Radosh declines to release those e-mails in full.)

Today, Thursday, I asked Marzorati and Landesman about the threats. Marzorati, very much the mensch, writes: