By Peter J. Smith
NEW YORK, February 13, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Byron Calame, the public editor (ombudsman) of the New York Times, has once again taken the Times to task for publishing a grossly inaccurate article on data concerning women living without a spouse that included 15-year-olds.
In his op-ed “Can a 15-Year-Old Be a ‘Woman Without a Spouse’?”, Calame berated the Times for allowing “serious journalistic lapses” in a front page January 16 article by veteran reporter Sam Roberts. Although Roberts’ article “sounded like grown-up stuff”, it was exposed by LifeSiteNews.com and others as both inaccurate and misleading.
On January 16, Roberts wrote prominently on the front page: “For what experts say is probably the first time more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results” adding that “the trend could ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways government and employers distribute benefits.”
Roberts’ article then construed the census data as a decline in support for marriage among women citing the personal anecdotes of women “delighting in their newfound freedom.” While Roberts’“findings” received uncritical enthusiasm from major news outlets, LifeSiteNews.com and others revealed gross journalistic fraud in Roberts’ article, since his methodology included both teenagers 15-17 years (almost 90 percent of whom were living with their parents, says Calame) and mostly college-age women living in a dormitory environment. Roberts’ interpretation was flatly denied by relevant complementary census data revealing that the vast majority of women 18 and older are married (56.7%) with a spouse present (53%).
“The failure to prominently and clearly explain the methodology of the survey used was one of several journalistic lapses that I found in the handling of this story,” said Calame, who noted that “common sense” called for telling readers how many women above high school age were living without a spouse, which is only 48% by his calculation.
Instead, Roberts’ single passing reference to the range of ages included in the overall data from the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey, or A.C.S., came below the midpoint of the article, which may have been the Times’ editors themselves contributing to Roberts’“journalistic lapses.” Calame says that a draft he obtained shows the reference to the ages was buried deeper in the article, removed from paragraph 10 to paragraph 21 on the inside page.
To date, Calame says, the Times has issued no corrections on Roberts’ data which he fraudulently said reflected A.C.S. data on “more than 117 million women over the age of 15,” that is, age 16 and up. The truth is that the census data also included women age 15 .
“It is true that the 51 percent benchmark probably lifted this story onto the front page,” Jack Kadden, a deputy national editor who oversaw its preparation, wrote Calame in an e-mail. “It is certainly what caught our attention.”
“At the Page One meeting there was agreement that the story was especially newsworthy because of the for-the-first-time-more-living-alone-than-with-a-spouse angle,” Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, also told Calame in an e-mail. “No questions about the methodology or age categories were discussed.”
“With a long-acknowledged trend topping 50 percent by one count, the main thrust of the article was assessing the kind of women who constitute this new majority,” wrote Calame. “And that should have included pointing out that almost 90 percent of the more than six million females ages 15 to 17 in the new majority are still living with their parents.”
Calame has done a great service to the readers of the New York Times by demanding the Times enforce journalistic standards on stories that seem to fit the ideological fantasies of its editorial board. However, as speculations at the “Grey Lady” continue over the dubious survival of its ombudsman, speculations continue at large whether the Times will ever engage in serious, factual reporting again.
See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:
New York Times Gets Another Story Very Wrong – This Time it’s about Marriage
See the Ombudsman’s Editorial:
See Sam Robert’s NYT article on Marriage:
51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse
U.S. Census Bureau: The 2007 Statistical Abstract: Marital Status and Living Arrangements
See LifeSiteNews.com’s expose of the Times’ tolerance for inventive reporting
New York Times Caught in Abortion-Promoting Whopper – Infanticide Portrayed as Abortion
See LifeSiteNews’ Jan. 2, 2007 report:
New York Times Ombudsman Admits Paper Was Caught in Misrepresentation by LifeSiteNews.com