Blairgate: Times suspends Rick Bragg

Department of ‘Dateline Integrity:’ Columbia Journalism Review published a web exclusive story on Friday, detailing how The New York Times has placed Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg on a two-week leave because of impropriety in reporting a piece published last June. The story has been widely picked up in the news.
According to Howard Kunz of the Washington Post, an NY Times editor’s note Friday said that Bragg had only briefly visited the Florida town of Apalachicola, from which he filed a story last June, and that most of the reporting had been done by a stringer. That freelance reporter, J. Wes Yoder, an intern, should have shared a byline with Bragg, the paper said.
According to the Daily News, Yoder, 23, spent four days in and around Apalachicola, on Florida’s northern gulf coast, did much of the reporting and sat with his notes alongside Bragg when the staffer wrote the piece.
“I had offered to volunteer for Rick for the summer because I wanted to learn from him,” said Yoder, who has since become a staff writer for The Anniston Star, an Alabama paper where Bragg once worked. Yoder said Bragg paid him directly for his work over three months, calling it an invaluable experience.
Gordon Gray, author of the CJR piece, writes:
While many national correspondents at the Times rely heavily on stringers, the paper’s policy on “dateline integrity” is that the bylined writer must “provide the bulk of the information, in the form of copy or, when necessary, of notes used faithfully in a rewrite.” Had Yoder been given at least partial credit, it seems, Bragg’s piece might not have had any “dateline integrity” issues. The Times national desk policy of not giving bylines to stringers or freelancers is one of the areas a new committee — headed by assistant managing editor Allan M. Siegal and formed in the wake of the Jayson Blair plagiarism and fabrication debacle to rethink newsroom policies — will review. “It would have been nice for J. Wes to share a byline, or at least a tagline, but that’s not the policy,” Bragg said. “I don’t make the policies.”
Why am I covering this? Rick Bragg is one of the best “local color” writers in the country, if not the world. His memoirs and essays are outstanding.
It would be a shame if the Times trying to police itself slapped his hand too hard in the process.