Bintel Blog

Is Noah Feldman The N.Y. Times’ New Jayson Blair?

By Gabriel Sanders

The Orthodox Union waded into the Noah Feldman debate with guns a-blazin’ today.

With a press release titled, “Noah Feldman as the ‘Jewish Jayson Blair’?” the O.U.’s Institute for Public Affairs charged that both Feldman and The New York Times Magazine, where the Harvard legal scholar’s much-discussed July 22 critique of Modern Orthodoxy appeared, “knew in advance of publication that the essay contained false statements.”

The O.U. called for an apology from the Times and further argued that Feldman should lose his position as a contributing editor to the paper’s Sunday magazine.

The crux of the issue, from the O.U.’s standpoint, is the anecdote with which Feldman opens his piece — that he did not appear in a newsletter photo of his Modern Orthodox high school’s 10-year reunion because he had been at the event with his non-Jewish girlfriend. The O.U., relying on an account that appears in this week’s issue of The Jewish Week, argues that the assertion that Feldman was “deliberately cropped out of a photograph of his day school reunion” is false.

But the issue is not quite so clear cut. Feldman never uses the words “cropped out,” “erased” or “airbrushed” in his article. What he says is the following: “We all crowded into a big group photo…. When the alumni newsletter came around a few months later, I happened to notice the photo. I looked, then looked again. My girlfriend and I were nowhere to be found.”

Technically speaking, nothing here is false. Feldman and his girlfriend were not in the picture. But, as the Jewish Week article makes clear, the reason for this is not that he was deliberately removed, but that the group assembled was too large for one shot and that, in order to capture the whole group, multiple photos were taken.

Here matters grow a little dicey for the Times. The paper knew there’d been no altered pictures. How? Looking for an image with which to illustrate Feldman’s piece, they’d paid the reunion photographer to find the negative. Once it became clear that nothing had been tampered with, his shots were no longer of use.

With no image to illustrate Feldman’s anecdote, the Times did the next best thing: They crafted one. The drawing accompanying the article shows a group of young men davening with one appearing only in silhouette.

Feldman may never have said that he was cropped out of his reunion picture, but it’s tough to come away from his piece thinking otherwise.

So, is the Times guilty of misleading its readers? Yes. Does this rise to the level of a Jayson Blair-style offense? Not by a long shot.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Orthodoxy, Noah Feldman, N.Y. Times




Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.