Appellate Practice

BigLaw Partners Who Wrote the Times Experience the Frustration of Heavy Editing


The late columnist Molly Ivins recalled the heavy pen of New York Times editors in her book, Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?

Ivins had written about one fellow with “a beergut that belongs in the Smithsonian”; the edited version of the article substituted “a man with a protuberant abdomen.”

Some BigLaw partners who wrote letters to the editor can sympathize, according to two reports in the Volokh Conspiracy.

In one post, Steptoe & Johnson partner Stewart Baker tells of his frustration when he wrote the Times a letter that disagreed with an op-ed. “The editing leached all the color and attitude out of the letter, leaving simply a husk that blandly recited our disagreement with the op-ed,” he writes. “It was like replacing a real, full-blooded Scalia dissent with the notation ‘Justice Scalia dissents.’ “

Another post describes how Mayer Brown partner Andrew Pincus wrote to the Times to object to an editorial that opposed his position in a pending Supreme Court case. He wrote that the Times was “just wrong” in its account of lower court rulings on the issue. The Times refused to use that language, and also rejected his suggested substitute, “The Times incorrectly asserts.” The newspaper was willing, however, to run his recitation of how the courts actually ruled.

The Times editor explained why Pincus’ language about the error didn’t make the cut: “We cannot say ‘incorrectly’ because that is the province of corrections, in which case I would forward the letter to the corrections editor and it could not be considered as a letter.”

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