* CYA for NYT?

Ron KaplanContributor IAugust 10, 2009

Last week, Charles McGrath had written about “The Red Sox Nation, Betrayed.” This week, In The Public Editor column in Sunday’s Week in Review section, Clark Hoyt seeks to explain how the Times did the correct thing in its reporting that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez were part of the 2003 list of players that tested positive for steroids/PED.

[Player union leader Donald] Fehr told me that if The Times wanted the names, it should have gone into court and asked the judge to lift the order. The newspaper did just that to get a front-page story last week about the pharmaceutical industry’s hidden influence on medical literature. Reporters and newspapers don’t have the right to substitute their judgment for a court’s, Fehr said.

Michael Schmidt, the reporter who got the baseball story … said he did nothing wrong. “I believe it is legal and ethical for me to ask questions of people who may be covered by court orders,” he said. “It is the choice of the source to talk.” Schmidt said that as many as 200 people know who is on the list — some of whom may not be covered by the judge’s order, which is itself sealed — and he set out systematically to talk to as many of them as possible.

Hoyt goes on to provide other examples that back his assertion that his paper was in the right in reporting what was supposed to have been sealed records.

What you decide to do with information after you get it can be the hard part….

“It’s a newspaper’s job to seek information and then, if it’s interesting, to publish it,” said Bill Keller, the executive editor.

Hoyt disagrees with those who say the names should have been kept private.

Ramirez, now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Ortiz are still stars. [Sammy] Sosa, who hasn’t played since 2007, is hoping to make the Hall of Fame. Baseball may not be national security, but it is big business and a rich part of American culture. If the game and its records have been corrupted, people need to know.

For what it’s worth, I disagree with Hoyt, insofar as the information was intended — through legal channels — to remain undisclosed. Just because you can do something — in this case publish the names — doesn’t mean you should.