Aug 22, 2009

NYT Revisited

While having no desire to scratch at an old sore, I wanted to share (with permission) the nice response I received to my complaints about the NYT article on independent college counselors from Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania:

I’m sorry you were disappointed with my quote in Jacques Steinberg’s recent New York Times story about independent college advising. I was responding to a question posed to me about unscrupulous and uncertified counselors who charge huge amounts for undoubtedly unknowledgeable advice. I was very careful not to so characterize most – let alone all – counselors, and I was very clear on this point – that there are many knowledgeable counselors who are certified and perform a valuable service.

Most admissions counselors are of great help and value to their clients and their families. But as you point out, as in any business, there are an unscrupulous few who tarnish the good work and reputations of others such as you. This is completely in keeping with what I said. I’m very sorry the one sentence that was quoted of mine came across otherwise.

With best wishes for an enjoyable summer,

Amy Gutmann

I never doubted for a moment that the quote came from a larger conversation on the matter of college advising. It’s wonderful, however, to have this strong endorsement relative to the quality and importance of contributions made by independent counselors to the field.

Note that several of those interviewed by Jacques Steinberg complained loudly about the article’s slant, including Mark Sklarow, Executive Director of the Independent Educational Consultant's Association (IECA). In fact, Steinberg tepidly revisited some of the controversy and the Times found it necessary to issue a correction at the request of one independent counseling business appearing in the article. Editing error?


  1. Nancy, Dr. Gutmann's reponse brings the number to at least three interviewees who state they were quoted out of context, appearing to support an idea they do not believe.
    While I have also found Steinberg's work helpful in the past, his article represents the lowest form of journalism. The New York Times can do better.
    I posted a second column on ths subject yesterday, after reading your post:

    Thank you for making that letter public!

  2. Lauren,
    I think you and I agree that "editing errors" were unlikely. Steinberg decided on a slant and an outcome, and he shaped his article accordingly. I found his follow-up less than satisfying especially insofar as he took great pains to end on a negative note leaving a last impression with readers that wasn't very fair. I don't imagine there were any editing errors there either.

    Thanks for the support!