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Margaret Sullivan Supports New York Times' Decision On Drone Reporting

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NEW YORK TIMES POVERTY STORIES
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Margaret Sullivan, the public editor of The New York Times, has been vocal in her criticism over the newspaper's compliance with government requests. A recent decision by The Times, however, got her support.

That decision was The Times' disclosure of the location of a potential U.S. drone strike against an American with alleged terrorist ties. While the Associated Press and The Washington Post reported the same story, they withheld the American's location at the government's request. The Times, however, pushed back against the request and reported that the American was in Pakistan.

"This week’s decision by The Times was a sound and carefully determined one, and Ms. Ryan’s articulation of the reasons made me want to cheer," Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan was referring to The Times' Washington bureau chief Carolyn Ryan's explanation of the decision to The Huffington Post. Ryan had said that "it's important to give readers as much information as possible about the circumstances surrounding" a debate about killing an American citizen, among other reasons for the newspaper's reporting.

The move is in line with Sullivan's call for the newspaper to approach government requests with greater skepticism. In a column last year about the balance between national security and the public interest, for example, she questioned the newspapers' decision to withhold the location of a base used for drone strikes.

"News organizations, after all, don’t want to endanger the nation’s safety, or be accused of doing so, so editors often listen to government officials when they make their case for not publishing. And, after listening, editors occasionally consent," she wrote. "But a countervailing force — people’s right to know what their government is doing and the news media’s responsibility to find out and tell them — ought to rule the day."