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Sept. 8, 2009, 7:26 p.m.

New York Times pulls a post, but it lives on

At 5:38 p.m. this evening, The New York Times purported to unmask the anonymous proprietor of The NYTPicker, a blog that routinely critiques the newspaper. Rebecca Ruiz identified the blogger as David Blum, former editor of the Village Voice and other publications in New York. She cited “a person with close ties to the site who also requested anonymity” and said Blum “declined to comment.”

Less than an hour later, the Times’ post was gone. (UPDATE, 8:24 p.m.: A new Times post walks back the original claim. “Mr. Blum contacted us shortly after the post went up to say that he hadn’t intended to decline comment and, furthermore, he denied he had any involvement with NYTPick.com. He added that he was flattered — he reads the blog — but that the source was incorrect.”)

Of course, you can’t just make things on the Internet disappear. Part of the post is still in my RSS reader. It’s still in Google News. It’s still on the Times’ own website in the form of Times Wire (scroll to 5:38 p.m.). And after asking our Twitter followers for the full text of the post, I had seven copies in my inbox. That’s after the jump, thanks to Vadim Lavrusik, who struck first.

To be honest, I don’t really care who the NYTPicker is. The site’s Twitter feed has denied the Times’ aborted report, and they’ll no doubt have something to say about the ethics of pulling a post. I just think this is a lesson that removing content from the web is a futile task, particularly for big news sites. And if a story needs to be retracted, if that’s the case here (update: it is), then we need better ways to do it than just pulling content off the web.

Here’s the post:

NYTPicker Revealed. A Blogger With A Cause: Us

By Rebecca Ruiz

The NYTPicker has become the NYTPicked.

David Blum, a veteran of New York media circles and a former editor of the Village Voice, the New York Press and New York magazine, is behind NYTPick.com, an anonymous commentary blog, according to a person with close ties to the site who also requested anonymity.

Many people are critical of the journalism they consume. According to this person, Mr. Blum has turned the analytical reader’s pastime into a profession, and he has done so without pay or personal publicity. Mr. Blum’s site has gained credence nonetheless; it was referred to by the public editor in an Aug. 15 column, with its investigative work credited for calling attention to the insufficient survey sample of a Times trend piece.

When reached by phone, Mr. Blum declined to comment.

Mr. Blum is a practiced journalist. He is an alumnus of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, New York magazine and both The New York Times newspaper and its Sunday Magazine. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Columbia School of Journalism since 2002.

He is the former editor-in-chief of the New York Press, The Village Voice and, most recently, 02138 Magazine, the now defunct Harvard College alumni publication. It was after 02138 announced its close on Oct. 24, 2008 that Mr. Blum zeroed in on The Times; he wasted few days in christening NYTPick.com with its first post on Nov. 7.

Some of Mr. Blum’s earlier work is similar to that of the NYTPicker. In April 2008, Mr. Blum wrote a blog post under his own name for the New York Press entitled, “The New York Times Buried the Lede…” In it he criticized a Times obituary for deferring mention of its subject’s murder conviction until the second to last paragraph.

Mr. Blum’s tenure at The Times newspaper was at the start of his career in the late 1970s. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in English, he was eager to work in journalism and once said in an interview that he had intended to ring up every Times bureau in the country.

He has since left the halls of this paper, but as he writes on the site, “We’d like to think we’re performing a public service… We’re going to keep at this and obsessively report on the NYT without fear or favor, for as long as we can afford it. We hope you’ll forgive our anonymity, and embrace our effort.”

Note: We originally linked Rebecca Ruiz’ name to what appears to be a different New York reporter named Rebecca Ruiz. Sorry.

POSTED     Sept. 8, 2009, 7:26 p.m.
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