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New York Times Corrects Cory Booker Article, But Stands By Story

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In this Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, file photograph, Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker addresses a gathering in Willingboro Township, N.J. (AP/Mel Evans)
In this Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, file photograph, Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker addresses a gathering in Willingboro Township, N.J. (AP/Mel Evans)

NEW YORK -– Newark Mayor Cory Booker took aim Monday at a recent front page New York Times article on his tenure as mayor, telling The Huffington Post that he’d "never seen an article so factually wrong and so willfully willing to exclude facts to attack my work and the progress of our city."

Booker argued that reporter Kate Zernike's piece left out necessary context in the article's conclusion, which could have left the impression that the mayor was too preoccupied with glitzy Manhattan events -- an Upper West Side bookstore reading, a “benefit at Cipriani” and a “movie premiere” -- to oversee Newark city agencies.

Indeed, Zernike didn’t mention that the events Booker attended revolved around issues such as teen homelessness and drug policy, or that they related to work he's done in Newark. And The Times’ "kicker" included only half of Booker's tweet from that night, which -- in truncated form -- seems more like the mayor is boasting about being on a panel with mogul Richard Branson. The second part, which noted that the panel was for a premiere of a film about the war on drugs, was cut off.

Earlier this week, Times metro editor Carolyn Ryan listened to claims from the mayor's team about what it said were inaccuracies throughout the article. She agreed with the team's contention that Booker's tweet should not have been truncated, and the Times acknowledged in a memo that the tweet was cut short so as not to be redundant. The Times issued a correction on Friday.

An article last Friday about the political future of Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark omitted part of a comment he made on Twitter that provided the full context for his reference to the British businessman Richard Branson. After Mr. Booker tweeted, “I sat on a panel with @Richard Branson last night,” he went on to say that they were at “the premiere of this film about the failure of the war on drugs.” The article also misidentified the cable company that filmed a book reading attended by Mayor Booker. It was C-Span, not CNN. And because of an editing error, the article misidentified the location of the first supermarket to be built in Newark in decades. It is in the Central Ward, not downtown.

But while the Times acknowledged those corrections Friday, the paper didn’t agree with the Booker team’s larger case that the article was riddled with inaccuracies.

Ryan told The Huffington Post on Friday that the Times stands by the story.

In a memo to Booker, Ryan and A.G. Sulzberger, an editor on the metro desk, wrote that “while we suspect that you will not agree with all of our conclusions, we hope the detail provided below shows how seriously we considered your objections.”

The Times memo -- which ran around 2,400 words -- addressed various issues Booker's team brought up, including how Zernike covered snow removal, fire closings, a new supermarket opening, crime, borrowing, schools, and the conclusion of the piece. That section of the memo addressing the conclusion is below:

LAST PARAGRAPH: You raised several objections about the last paragraph.
The first was that the bookstore reading was filmed by C-Span, not CNN. Kevin Ryan, the co-author of “Almost Home”, posted this on Facebook on December 5:

“Tomorrow night (Thursday) CSPAN and CNN will cover our free public Almost Home book talk with Cory Booker, Tina Kelley and me at the Barnes and Noble at 82nd and Broadway in NYC at 7pm.”

The second was your argument that your appearance at Google’s headquarters was incorrectly described as a “movie premiere.” You described it this way in your own Twitter post, and it was described that way in other media and on the film’s promotional site. http://www.youtube.com/user/breakingthetaboofilm

The third was your complaint that your Twitter post about Richard Branson was truncated, unfairly, leaving out context. Your full post said: “Sat on a panel with @RichardBranson last night for the premiere of this film about the failure of the war on drugs http://wayw.re/TGYU6Z”

Since the article had immediately previously said that you attended a film premiere, the tweet was cut short to avoid the redundant mention of the movie premiere. However, we agree that the added context that the movie was about the war on drugs should have been included somewhere in the paragraph and will run a clarification to that effect.

Mayor Booker’s office had no additional comment on the Times' correction.

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