NYT Apologizes for Positive Review of Progressive Book

It was surprising to see that critical scholar Mahmood Mamdani’s new book (which is largely about debunking Western notions about Darfur and genocide–something he discussed on CounterSpin) got a positive review in the New York Times (3/30/09).

Today (4/3/09) the paper sort of apologizes, in an editor’s note (only in the print edition, so far):

The Books of the Times review on Monday was about Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror, by Mahmood Mamdani, a professor of government at Columbia University. The review was written by Howard W. French, a former reporter for the New York Times who is now an associate professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and does not know the author. But had editors known of Mr. Mamdani’s affiliation with Columbia at the time the review was assigned, the review would not have been assigned to a member of the Columbia faculty.

That has the sound ofa rule that is bound to be applied selectively; it’s hard to imagine that book reviewers do notoccasionally have professional or (more importantly) social connections with the authors they are reviewing. In this case the two don’t appear to know each other at all, which might lead one to conclude that a positive review of a politically controversial book was the real problem.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.