Editorial: NY Times incorrectly put teacher in bad light

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

Everyone knows that there are two sides to a story…except, evidently, The New York Times.

When reporting on a 16-year-old stutterer who claimed to be discriminated against at a community college, the New York Times ran what was a rather one-sided article on the front page of the paper. This was inappropriate and a crass attempt at creating an artificial controversy.

Imagine that you’re a teacher who has a student who speaks more often in class than others, so you ask him to ask fewer questions in class. The student is taking college classes two years early and admits to speaking primarily in paragraph form instead of short sentences. Your stated reason for calling on him less is to avoid infringing on the time of the other students.

Did you act inappropriately? It sure doesn’t seem that way. This is the exact situation that Elizabeth Snyder found herself in with a student by the name of Phillip Garber Jr., who was speaking in class more often in class than the other students.

She, however, found herself on the front page of the New York Times as having acted inappropriately.

Why? Phillip Garber Jr. is an admitted stutterer and claims that he was discriminated against because of his stuttering, not his behavior.

The truth probably lies somewhere between the version that Garber offers and the version that Snyder offers. We are inclined to lean toward Snyder’s version, but we obviously weren’t in the room and will never know the real story.

We are, however, doing two things rather differently from the New York Times. One is that we are writing this in an opinion piece and not in a news piece and the second is that we are acknowledging that both sides probably have some truth to their claims.

While the original story ran on the front page of the New York Times, a follow-up piece ran a full four days later that was a little less critical of Snyder.

Unlike the first piece, however, this piece ran on page A21, not the front page. That pretty much says it all about what the New York Times’ priority when it wrote this story.

It wasn’t getting this story into the public spotlight – it was generating controversy.

Snyder was the one who lost out.

The New York Times should be more careful in the future when it takes a non-public figure like Snyder and throws her into the public spotlight. Garber may have wanted to complain in public, but that doesn’t mean that he was right.