The Shadow Editors: Prop 8 and the New York Times, or Another Chapter in the Rough Draft of History

Tom Scocca: Wow, what, New York Times “dot com”?

Tom : BREAKING NEWS 4:43 PM ET California Gay Marriage Ban Overturned

Tom: My clock says 5:09 p.m.

Choire Sicha: lol

Choire: The WaPo news alert was insanely tardy, too.

Tom: Do they at least have a story, unlike the Times?

Tom: A stub of a story?

Tom: How did New York magazine get a “scoop” on this?

Choire: [REDACTED]

Tom: Ay yi yi.

Tom: But … it’s a JUDGE’S DECISION.

Choire: Well.

Choire: Having a pdf on the ground with a scanner is better than anything else still. Courts are always slow.

Tom: Better than somebody speed-reading and speed-typing excerpts?

Choire: Probably that yeah. But still in person

Tom: Why wasn’t anybody there? You see my confusion? This is a big news story.

Choire: omg

Choire: HERE’s an item for you.

Tom: What even does that mean what?

Choire: That’s how the AP rolls now

Choire: FIRST1121!!!

Tom: But that’s like half an hour after the New York mag time stamp.

Choire: YES

Tom: Or does that time stamp just reflect when NYMag teed up an item?

Choire: No, they were early. With the same post. That they then updated.

Choire: Now my mother wants me to get married in California.


Tom: Where were you going to do it otherwise?

Choire: I dunno, Greenwich or some shit?

Tom: Hurk!

Tom: Annnd the NYT is up … 59 minutes late.

Tom: With 59 minutes, you’d think they’d have come up with a better word than “temporary”:

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge here struck down California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday, handing a temporary victory to gay rights advocates in a legal battle that seems all but certain to be settled by the Supreme Court.

Choire: HA

Tom: Would that sentence be any worse off without “temporary” in it?

Tom: Come to think of it, “all but certain to be settled” involves a lot of assumptions.

Choire: Yes!

Tom: If the Roberts Court goes 5-4 against gay marriage, the gays are going to call it a day.

Tom: “Hey, we tried!”

Choire: Right? OH GAME OVER OKAY

Tom: And if the Prop 8 people lose, I’m sure they won’t try to come up with a reworded ban.

Tom: “Wednesday’s decision, written by Federal District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of Federal District Court here, which was being reported by several local news outlets but could not be immediately confirmed”—good gravy.

Choire: SAD

Tom: —”is just the first chapter of what is expected to be a long legal battle over the ban”—

Tom: First chapter?

Choire: What a terrible book that would be but also… no.

Tom : They didn’t have enough time in that 59 minutes to glance at Wikipedia?

Petition to remove proposition from ballot

Challenge to title and summary

Strauss v. Horton 46 Cal.4th 364, was the consolidation of three lawsuits following the passage of California’s Proposition 8 on November 4, 2008, which went into effect on November 5. […] These cases were new to the California Supreme Court, and Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar stated that it will set precedent as “no previous case had presented the question of whether an initiative could be used to take away fundamental rights”.[1]

The court rendered its decision on May 25.[2] The ruling established that Proposition 8 was valid as voted, but that marriages performed before it went into effect would remain valid.

Tom: The New York Times; we’re not first, but at least we’re wrong!

Tom: Also maybe a little cryptomnesia? New York mag:

the unlikely pair (they faced off against one another famously during the 2000 presidential election aftermath, with Olson representing Bush and Boies Gore

Tom: The Times: 

the plaintiffs’ case was argued by David Boies and Theodore Olson, ideological opposites who once famously sparred in the 2000 Supreme Court battle over the presidency.

Choire: Famously indeed!

Tom: No one should ever use the word.

Choire: Yeah, that shit goes on the list.

Tom: Which is why I couldn’t help but notice it got used twice, to describe the same thing, in two different stories.

Tom: “The who had brought the case — Perry v. Schwarzenegger — in May 2009 on behalf of two gay couples who said that Proposition 8”

Tom: “The who”?

Tom: “The Who”?

Tom: “The two”?

Choire: I would suggest “two.” Yes.

Tom: Hey, I make lots of sloppy errors, especially writing in a hurry on the Internet, but was there anything about that sentence that couldn’t have been written and copy edited yesterday?

Tom: Wow, it goes on and on.

Indeed, for gay rights advocates, same-sex marriage has increasingly become a central issue in their battle for equality, seen as both an emotional indicator of legitimacy and as a practical way to dull acts of discrimination.

Choire: ….

Tom: “Emotional indicator”? Whose emotions are being indicated? “Dull” is a synonym for “prevent”? Isn’t all this subsumed by “equality”?

Proponents for Proposition 8, which was heavily backed by the Mormon church and other religious and conservative groups, had offered a much more straightforward defense, saying that same-sex marriage damages traditional marriage as an institution.

Tom: Wasn’t their defense remarked on for being embarrassingly unstraightforward? In that they weren’t able to present any objective evidence to support their claims.

Tom: Aha! It’s quarter to six, and when I reloaded the story, they had finally gotten their own hands on the decision.

Tom: They also cleaned up that “first chapter” nonsense.

Tom: “Wednesday’s decision is just the latest chapter of what is expected to be a long legal battle over the ban…”

Choire: Oh, it’s a LATEST chapter.

Tom: Yes! Somebody is speed-editing this thing.

Tom: And this:

For gay rights advocates, same-sex marriage has increasingly become a central issue in their battle for equality, seen as both an emotional indicator of legitimacy and as a practical way to lessen discrimination.

Choire: I’m really trapped in “emotional indicator” still.

Choire: It’s like yes but and but yes but?

Tom: Again, why are they writing the boilerplate about the meaning of the gay-rights movement on the fly?

Choire: Yeah that should be copy-and-pasteable

Tom: They should get a few pointers from the sports desk.

Choire: Or obits!

Tom: The sports guys aren’t like, “The throw from Robinson Cano landed in Mark Teixeira’s glove, the umpire signaled out, and the New York Yankees had won their HOW MANY TK championship, the team’s first SINCE TK…”

Tom: “Nixon, who ran for president unsuccessfully in the ‘60s and then again successfully also in the ‘60s [GET DATES]…”

Tom: Anyway, apparently New York magazine knows how to do breaking news better than the Times.

Tom: I don’t really care who got the scoop. Everybody knew a decision was coming down this afternoon. The question is why the Times was unprepared to write a news story about it.

Choire: Well right, it’s not a scoop. Unless you’re interested in a couple thousand measly pageviews for being FIRRSSTT!11

Choire: Which is not a bad thing entirely! I thought NY mag was very competent!

Choire: Competent AND first11!!

Choire Sicha is co-proprietor of The Awl , where other installments of The Shadow Editors have appeared.