Investigation by New York Times shows that they're doing a great job covering the IRS scandal

An important announcement from the New York Times, whose "public editor," (I prefer "ombudsman" but then, I'm just old fashioned), Margaret Sullivan, was looking into complaints by readers that the newspaper was not pursuing the Lois Lerner IRS missing emails story with enough vigor.

I asked David Joachim, the Washington-based reporter and editor who has written several of the I.R.S. stories, to respond to this reader and others who believe The Times has not pursued the story aggressively enough.

Mr. Joachim responded by email. He noted that reader comments on the stories show how polarized the feelings are:

One side sees a Nixonian abuse of power and cover-up; the other sees an effort to smear the White House for electoral gain in the midterms. That stuff brings out passions.

We’ve been covering the major developments in the investigations since they started more than a year ago: the apologies, the outrage, the resignations, the hearings, the reports, the bickering, the contempt citation.

We’ve also produced a fair amount of enterprise and investigation to try to show what’s been going on behind the scenes.

Our interest intensified on June 13, when the I.R.S. disclosed, belatedly, that Lois Lerner’s hard drive had crashed three years ago, taking a lot of her email with it.

Since then, we’ve published five articles on developments, including a lengthy explainer that tried to put the lost emails into the context of the overall scandal. None of those landed on the front page of the print newspaper, but every one of them was promoted heavily over social media and spent a long time on our home page, which is prime real estate.

I would hazard a guess and say that every other major media in the country had the missing email story as the lede. For the Times, not only were they late in covering the story, but apparently buried it.

But fear not! Our intrepid public editor looked into the matter with utmost care and depth:

The Times was somewhat late in beginning to cover the latest development about the lost emails. My office had begun to field several days’ worth of reader protests on the lack of attention when the first story finally went online. Despite that slow start and the quiet display of the subsequent stories (an analytical piece might have been a good choice for the front page), The Times has given its readers insightful coverage of a situation heavily clouded by partisan politics.

Better late than never, I suppose, although it may as well have been never given how they buried the story. The public editor gives the newspaper good grades despite them being late to cover the issue and "the quiet display" (page 19) of stories designed to keep readers ignorant of what's happening.

Glad to know the Times public editor is on the job.


If you experience technical problems, please write to