Did the New York Times Magazine try to sandbag Fox News?
We report, you decide.
Irena Briganti, a Fox spokeswoman, says she called an editor at the magazine to complain that the network had been given only 24 hours to comment for a piece on the documentary "Outfoxed" being published today.
She says the editor, James Ryerson, told her: "We made a deal." Taken aback, Briganti says, she asked him to explain. "He said it was part of the deal we made with the subject that we would hold off on contacting you" until shortly before deadline.
Asked about the exchange, Ryerson says: "I can't remember what exact conversation we had. We certainly contacted Fox News and gave them plenty of time. . . . She may have misunderstood something."
"He's completely lying," Briganti says.
Should the Times make such deals? The author of the article, Robert Boynton, who teaches journalism at New York University, says he did have an agreement with filmmaker Robert Greenwald: He couldn't call too early, says Boynton, who began work on the piece in late May, because Fox "would have slapped an injunction on him for copyright infringement" for unauthorized use of the network's footage. "That would have screwed the whole thing up," Boynton says. But "the only deal was that I couldn't call two or three weeks in advance."
Boynton's first substantive contact was with a spokesman for Fox's parent, News Corp., on June 29, three days before his deadline. He was referred to the news division and e-mailed spokesman Brian Lewis the next day. The matter was referred to Briganti, who had the "deal" conversation with Ryerson on July 1, deadline day. She says she did not return Boynton's calls because Ryerson had promised to get back to her, and didn't.
Boynton e-mailed that day that he would have to say Fox had no comment "if I don't hear back from you by noon today."
"I really wanted a response," says Boynton. "This was not an ambush."
So will Fox sue Greenwald over the film? "People steal our footage all the time," says Dianne Brandi, Fox News's vice president for legal affairs. "We generally sort of look the other way."
-- Howard Kurtz