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.