As most of you are probably aware, Lolo Jones has endured quite a bit of flak lately, especially after not winning a medal with her fourth place finish in the 100-meter hurdles. Namely, a piece from Jere Longman at The New York Times is getting some notable exposure with its harsh criticisms of Lolo's sex appeal, and the way that she has been "marketing" herself.
Thanks to the volume of reader complaints, NYT Public Editor Arthur S. Brisbane came out and called the piece by Jere Longman "too harsh." Here is what Mr. Brisbane had to say in its entirety:
Thanks for your message. I have received several complaints about this. The article by Jere Longman appeared under the Olympics-coverage “In the Rings” signature, which The Times uses to signify that the article is a point-of-view piece and not straight news coverage. This means, in The Times’s style, that the writer has some latitude to insert his own perspective.
I have written in the past about problems that arise with this approach, which sometimes translates into too much opinion appearing in the news columns. In this particular case, I think the writer was particularly harsh, even unnecessarily so.
I queried the sports editor about it, and his response was that “One person’s harsh is another person’s tough minded,” and that the writer, “while acknowledging Jones’s accomplishment and qualities of perseverance and candor, thinks this female athlete fell short.”
I believe writers like Jere Longman, who does have a long and worthy track record at The Times, should have some room to express their hard-earned perspective. But this piece struck me as quite harsh and left me, along with others, wondering why the tone was so strong.
Thanks for expressing your view. The sports desk is certainly aware at this point that a number of readers were unhappy about the piece.
I think it's a nice gesture for an editor to respond to reader complaints with this, but I still personally feel (and agree with Brisbane) that Jere Longman was out of line in the first place. In a sense, the damage has already been done. It's too bad that Art has to send out something like this in the first place, as Lolo Jones doesn't deserve getting shredded like she has been. What has she done wrong? Just because she is an attractive female that happens to be a world-class athlete, but ultimately hasn't been able to win the prize that is an Olympic gold medal?
Lolo is more athletically talented than 99.9% of the world's population. She has set American track records, and has two world indoor titles. She is out there fighting for her country in these Olympic games, and I have no doubt in my mind that she is giving her absolute maximum efforts in all that she does. I'm sure she'd love to win an Olympic medal as bad (or even worse) than everyone else out there. Unfortunately, this New York Times controversy has become the story instead of Lolo or the American athletes that did medal.
The "there are more deserving athletes" concept does very little for me. It is marketing money not charity. Comes back to the current accept belief in the media that winning is morally great. Lolo is a legit competitor who has looks and charisma. These things are the bread and butter of marketing.