Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Village Voice
August 8, 1989

by Doug Ireland


If some 400 cops were yanked from their normal rounds and pressed into duty guarding the city's most important newspaper -- smack in the middle of the mayoral campaign in which the paucity of police on the beat has become a major issue -- it would be rather bizarre of the rest of the press took no notice, don't you agree? Yet that's what happened when, last Tuesday, 150 members of ACT UP demonstrated on front of New York Times publisher Punch Sulzberger's residence at 1010 Fifth Avenue and then marched to West 43rd Street.

This demo was preceded by a Sunday zap in which outlines of dead bodies were stenciled on the streets around Sulzberger's pad, and the neighborhood decorated with stickers emblazoned, "All the News That Kills." By the time ACT UP's troops arrived for Tuesday's picketing, they found the sidewalk in front of chez Sulzberger torn up and barricaded, and a waiting army of police who forced the demonstrators onto a side street.

"We were astonished at such a massive police presence for a peaceful protest," says ACT UP spokesman Jay Blotcher. "There were paddy wagons, communications wagons, undercover cops wearing fluorescent wristbands everywhere."

When ACT UP paraded down to the Times building, they found a phalanx of cops blocking access to 43rd Street. Only after threatening a sit-down in Times Square were the protesters finally allowed to picket on the sidewalk opposite the Times.

(The NYPD says there were 200 police at each end of the demo, which means they outnumbered demonstrators nearly 3 to 1.)

"AIDS Crisis Escalates While N.Y. Times Sleeps" was the headline on the leaflet ACT UP distributed, which asked: "Why, instead of actively investigating the work of federal health organizations, does the Times merely rewrite [their] press releases? ... Such compliance makes the Times a mere public relations agent for an ineffective government.... Why did the Times, in its June 29 editorial (Why Make AIDS Worse Than It Is?) dismiss a new federal study finding a 33% under-reportage of AIDS infections in the US? This callous editorial assured its general readership that AIDS will be over soon, once infected members of undesirable risk groups die off."

ACT UP has requested a meeting with Sulzberger, Max Frankel, and top editors to demand "that the Times begin aggressive reporting of potentially lifesaving medical treatments" and "a journalistic investigation into the government's dismal response to this health crisis." Frankel's office said, "He is on vacation and has not seen their letter." Sulzberger is also on vacation.

AP says their daybook listed ACT UP's demo, but only KISS-AM and WBAI aired reports; the Times, of course, was so well insulated from its angry readers by the boys in blue that no whisper of the siege (or of the remarkable deployment occasioned) penetrated the columns of the newspaper of record. The TV blackout was total, the other dailies silent as graves
The excerpt below is from the book “AIDS Demo Graphics,” written by Douglas Crimp with Adam Rolston, published by Bay Press in Seattle.

While reading the book over the weekend I was impressed with how the authors vividly capture the spirit and political problems we faced in the 1980s, as queers in America and people living with HIV disease.

After putting the book down, three thoughts came to mind: 1) ACT UP’s claim in 1989 that the NY Times was rewriting news releases from the Centers for Disease Control is as true today as it was then. Just as in 1989, Dr. Lawrence K. Altman pens today’s Times stories about HIV and the CDC, and he rarely, if ever, includes voices critical of the agency in his news stories. Some things never seem to change at the Times.

2) After the action at Punch Sulzberger’s pad and the paper’s W.43rd Street headquarters, our action received no news coverage from the mainstream press, some attention from the gay media, and an intelligent analysis of it all from Doug Ireland, who wrote the Press Clips column for the Village Voice at the time. It’s a shame Ireland’s piece is not available online.

3) Decades of homo-hatred at the Gray Lady cannot be erased or changed overnight, and it’s been a relatively short period since the paper began using the word “gay” instead of “homosexual” and turned from demeaning and debasing the gay community into the champion of equality for us that it is today. There is still need for improvement related to gay and AIDS issues at the paper.

If you have a copy of Ireland’s fantastic Voice column from 1989, please send it to me.


AIDS Demo Graphics
By Douglas Crimp with Adam Rolston
Published in 1990


"Punch" Sulzberger's Fifth Avenue residence and the New York Times Company, New York City, July 26, 1989

A book will one day be written about the New York Times's continuous failure to report the AIDS crisis accurately -- if at all. It will no doubt begin with the infamous comparison noticed by Larry Kramer:

• During the first 19 months of the AIDS epidemic (by the end of which time there had been 891 reported cases), the Times carried seven articles about it, none of them on the front page.

• During the three months of the Tylenol scare in 1982 (seven cases), the Times carried fifty-four articles about it, four of them on the front page.

If all along, the failure of official policymakers to respond to the epidemic was a result of their disregard for the populations in which the disease was first noticed-primarily gay men-the New York Times seconded their contempt. Homophobia is notorious at the Times, well known by any lesbian or gay man who reads the paper and every day sees news about us distorted, trivialized, or completely ignored; known, too, from stories told by closeted gay people working on the inside-closeted because being openly gay at the Times is cause for immediate dismissal. It took eighteen years of pressure from lesbian and gay organizations to get the Times to use the word gay instead of homosexual, and the paper does so now reluctantly and selectively. When AIDS began to claim the lives of more and more gay men, the Times adamantly refused to report AIDS as the cause of death or to list gay lovers among surviving family members. And the Times insists on "AIDS victims" against the express wishes of people with AIDS, who prefer precisely that: people with AIDS.

But those of us in the - AIDS activist movement know the depth of the Times's contempt to be far greater. Because of the newspaper's racism, sexism, and class bias, no one affected by AIDS appears to matter to Times editors and writers, or to be understood as included among their readers -- no one, that is, but the "exceptional" "victims": the white middleclass hemophiliac child, the white middle-class heterosexual transfusion recipient. Because w e don't count for the Times, AIDS has been a minor news story, one that doesn't require full-time specialized reporters, investigative reporters, reporters knowledgeable of the science and politics of AIDS.

The New York Times sent one reporter to the Fifth International AIDS Conference in Montreal, attended by over 12,000 people (New York Newsday, a tabloid, sent five). The Times reporter didn't bother to attend the opening ceremonies, which were commandeered by hundreds of international AIDS activists in order to read a MANIFESTO OF THE RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WITH AIDS -- just one more AIDS story the Times therefore missed (national network news programs found time for it even though it happened the same day the Ayatollah Khomeini died and hundreds of Chinese students were massacred in Tiananmen Square).

Least of all does the Times feel the necessity of having its reporters consult with people with AIDS or people working within the communities most seriously affected by the epidemic. One Times reporter confessed, "Times editors discourage use of the word community; they consider it jargon." The most serious result of the Times's failure to imagine those of us living every day with AIDS as among its readership is its failure to cover drug treatment and access issues. ACT UP's expertise in these areas has made us all the more painfully aware of the Times's blind prejudice, its ignorance, and its disinterest in saving lives.

ACT UP considered going after the Times on several occasions, but always opted for less intransigent adversaries or those whose ignorance or arrogance might be modified by public pressure. But a Times editorial of June 29,1989, titled "Why Make AIDS Worse Than It Is?" was the last straw. In its desire to reassure its readers that the epidemic was leveling off and in any case would never be their worry, the editorial typified the newspaper's often-repeated position on AIDS, but this one reached new heights of callousness. The editorial's argument had often appeared before in rightwing journals: that those of us fighting the epidemic, especially the “powerful gay lobby," exaggerate forecasts in order to get more funding (one wonders, do the officially reported 100,000 + cases have to be exaggerated in order to make someone-the Times, say-pay attention?). According to the Times, dire predictions for the future are misguided. AIDS is "leveling off" because "the disease is still very largely confined to specific risk groups. Once all susceptible members are infected, the numbers of new victims will decline." In other words, "Soon all the fags and junkies will be dead, and we'll be rid of AIDS." The Times thus reveals why it still prefers to think about AIDS epidemiology in terms of "risk groups" rather than risk behaviors.

As ACT UP began planning an action, the Outreach Committee struck immediately with two crack-and-peel stickers, BUY YOUR LIES HERE for newsstands and OUT OF ORDER to place over the coin slot of Times vending machines. Another recently invented technique was set in motion: a fax zap. The Times’s fax numbers were distributed at the weekly meeting, and ACT UP member were encouraged to use our employers’ fax machines to jam those at the newspaper with out complaints.

Because Times policy is set at the top, ACT UP decided on publisher Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger’s Fifth Avenue residence as a starting point for our protest. During the night of July 23, the streets outside Sulzberger’s apartment were painted with outlines of bodies and the inscription ALL THE NEWS THAT FIT TO KILL. Three days later, 200 ACT UP members gathered at the same spot for an angry demonstration. Fliers with a series of questions were handed out to Punch’s neighbors:

-- Why does the Times refuse to print information about new AIDS treatments until long after their discovery?

-- Why, instead of actively investigating the work of federal health organizations, does the Times merely rewrite the press releases of the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health, among others?
n Why does the Times currently have no AIDS reporter in Washington, D.C., the city from which most crucial treatment policies originate?
n Why would the Times write an editorial that supports New York City health commissioner Stephen Joseph’s plan for an end to anonymous testing and the implementation of contact tracing, a proposal repudiated by both the medical community and a panel of AIDS experts?

At the demonstration, ACT UP found out just how much clout the newspaper has in New York City: the police department guarded Sulzberger’s residence with ranks equal in numbers to our own, and not a single story about the protest appeared in the mainstream media. Deterred at the publisher’s digs, ACT UP’s legions proceeded to march down Fifth Avenue and over to the Times offices on West 43rd Street. There we were met with an even bigger police gang, fully determined to protect the Times’s property rights against our own rights of free assembly and speech.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Ms. Catherine Mathis
The New York Times
VP of Corporate Communication

Dear Ms. Mathis:

In his January 17 Washington Post front-page story about journalists giving money to politicians, Howard Kurtz reported that New York Times reporter Karen W. Arenson said, “[H]er husband’s $1000 donation to Hillary Clinton was mistakenly reported in her name.” [1]

A review of the Federal Election Commission records for Arenson and her spouse show that both donated to Hillary Clinton on August 22, 2000. [2]

If Arenson’s contribution was indeed incorrectly credited to her, I would think she or her husband Gregory, a lawyer, would have corrected their FEC files by now, three years after the fact.

Arenson also wrote checks for $1,000 to Scott Stringer in 2002, a New York state assembly member; another $1,000 for the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1995; and $500 for Chuck Robb’s 1994 reelection. [3, 4, 5]

Was Karen Arenson mistakenly credited with any of these donations, or did she of her own free will make the contributions, and list her employer as the Times?

Arenson herself said in a 1998 profile for a newsletter published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of her alma maters, “I say, let's look at the data and draw conclusions from that.” [6]

Given that Arenson, through her other donations on file with the FEC and the New York State Board of Elections, has demonstrated a pattern of helping to swell the coffers of select candidates, it is reasonable to suppose her donation to Hillary Clinton was intentional.

Seems to me, if her check to Hillary Clinton truly was an error, then Arenson should instruct the FEC to properly record the donation as coming from her husband.

On the other hand, if Arenson did financially support Hillary Clinton and the 2000 donation was genuinely from her and not her spouse, then I wonder if the Times would consider what she claimed in the Washington Post as a lie.

I find this situation extremely troubling and in need of immediate clarification.

In addition, regarding Arenson’s 1995 donation to the Clinton/Gore reelection effort, I believe the Times may owe readers disclosure of it.

After sending money to the Clinton/Gore campaign, Arenson wrote stories about Bill Clinton in which she did not disclose her financial support to him.

On May 8, 2003, Arenson profiled Sheila C. Johnson, a cofounder of the Black Entertainment Network, for the Times, and said Johnson had “raised money for Bill Clinton.” [7]

In a June 10, 2001, article about universities working to acknowledge and right past wrongs, Arenson wrote, “President Bill Clinton went to Africa to apologize for America's role in enslaving Africans.” [8]

Furthermore, in her February 10, 1997, article headlined "Clinton Tax Break Plan Is Called A Tuition Prod," Arenson detailed an effort by the then-president to potentially expand college education for more students. [9]

Not that there’s anything wrong with how she referenced the former president, but all three stories failed to disclose Arenson’s donation to Bill Clinton, and I believe the paper had a responsibility, and still does, to divulge such information to readers.

The Times’ code of conduct says, “In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.” [10]

As a reader and shareholder, I ask that the Times run an editor’s note explaining Arenson’s contribution to Bill Clinton and that she wrote stories mentioning him after making the donation.

Also, the online versions of the three stories above, along with every other article she wrote that mentioned the former president, should include a note about her donation to his 1996 campaign.

Of course, if Arenson believes her donation to Bill Clinton, like the one made in her name to Hillary Clinton, was mistakenly credited to her instead of her husband, then she should demand the FEC correct her record, and no explanation is due readers.

A prompt response is requested.


Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267









Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Dear Friends:

Nick Regush, former ABC News producer, runs a health news web site raising important issues and exploring ideas related to scientific and medical matters.

One of the great things about his site Red Flags Weekly are the online conferences about a single subject.

Regush opened a conference yesterday on AIDS and The Media that is all about my qualms regarding the New York Times' medical reporter, Dr. Lawrence K. Altman.

When you visit this conference, you'll read how Catherine Mathis, VP for Corporate Communications, has informed me that Dr. Altman is asking the publisher of the Merck Manual to remove his name from the book's masthead.

Please consider participating in the conference and help bring about more scrutiny, and accountability, of AIDS reporting.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Today's Page Six gossip column in the New York Post ran an item about the political giving of New York Times reporters. Below is an excerpt. To read the full piece, go to the paper's web site.


March 17, 2004
New York Post
Page Six
By Richard Johnson

It should surprise no one that the editorial staff at the New York Times is overwhelmingly Democratic. But now there's proof. [snip]

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

If you saw tonight’s prime time Fox News show with Brit Hume, you already know he reported on the FEC files of New York Times reporters and staff members. For those of you who missed the “Political Grapevine” segment by Hume, here’s a transcript of what he said about Times reporters, the Sulzbergers and who they gave to.


March 16, 2004
Fox News
Special Report with Brit Hume

The New York Times recently banned employees from giving to political causes, saying such contributions could “feed a false impression that the paper is taking sides."

But over the past two decades, dozens of Times staffers have made political donations totaling over $43,000.

What’s more, more than nearly $42,000 went to Democratic candidates and liberal causes, while just over $1,400 went to Republicans.

Times shareholder Michael Petrelis turned up the donations and also found that the paper’s owners, the Sulzberger family, had given over $38,000 to Democrats and $6,000 to Republicans.
Subj: Re: FEC files: New York Times reporters donated to politicians
Date: 3/16/2004 3:28:25 PM Central Standard Time

Dear Mr. Petrelis,

The New York Times newspaper's Ethical Journalism guidelines went into
effect in January 2003 and relate only to members of the News and Editorial
Departments, not members of the Sulzberger family who do not work at The
New York Times or employees in other areas of The New York Times Company.

The contributions you have listed below, with only a few exceptions, were
made before the guidelines went into effect or by people to whom the
guidelines do not apply. In the few instances where this is not the case,
the journalists, have been reminded of the guidelines.


Catherine Mathis
VP, Corporate Communications
The New York Times Company
Posted today on Andrew Sullivan's blog.

THE NYT'S POLITICS: Here's a list of political contributions from various New York Times reporters and staff. I thought there was a policy against this?
Wanna send me email? Send it to:

Monday, March 15, 2004

March 15, 2003

Catherine Mathis
Vice President of Corporate Communications
The New York Times
New York, NY
Dear Ms. Mathis:

As a new shareholder in the New York Times Company and reader of the Times, I am gravely concerned about the paper’s commitment to principled journalism in today’s world.

The Times’ code of conduct, as laid out in the Ethical Journalism handbook that was revised in January 2003, explicitly prohibits staff from making political donations.

“Staff members may not themselves give money to, or raise money for, any political candidate or election cause. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides,” states the code. [1]

After reading this rule, I searched Federal Election Commission records on the web for Times staff and experienced dismay, seeing that dozens of staff members made political donations over more than two decades. [2]

Focal points of staff FEC files:

-- Most recent donations: Michael H. Sussman, web producer, donated in December 2003, Sarah Lyall, London bureau, gave in September 2003. While Janet Maslin, book critic, and John Rockwell, music critic, wrote out checks in March 2003.

-- Number of Pulitzer Prize awardees: Two. Barry Bearak, 2002 winner for international reporting; and Paul Goldberger, awarded a prize in 1984 for criticism.

-- Six people contributed to the Democratic National Committee.

-- Two members gave to a Green Party candidate.

-- One donated to the Republican National Committee, back in 1992.

-- Number who chipped in for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate campaign: 4.

-- Only two staff members wrote checks for Sen. Charles Schumer.

The paper’s code of conduct, of course, does not apply to the extended Sulzberger family. However, I must point out family members’ donations because they listed the New York Times as their employer on FEC forms. Contributions from Sulzberger relatives illustrate the breadth of political giving on the part of people connected with the paper.

A few highlights of the family’s contributions:

-- Most recent donation: On February 3, 2003, from Cathy F. Sulzberger.

-- Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., wrote out a check for $500 in September 1999 to the Handgun Control Voter Education Fund.

-- Single largest donor: Marion S. Heiskell; sister of Arthur Sulzberger, Sr.

In the Times’ Guidelines on Integrity, staff members are to “do nothing that might erode reader’s faith and confidence in our news column. This means that staff members should be vigilant in avoiding any activity that might pose an actual or apparent conflict of interest and thus threaten the newspaper’s ethical standing.” [3]

The FEC files, in my opinion, clearly show the Times has not vigorously enforced a key provision of the code of conduct, especially for the four staff members who donated to politicians after the code was revised in January 2003.

I ask that an investigation immediately begin to determine if the staff members listed below broke company standards in giving to politicians and causes.

A prompt reply is requested.


Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267





[Key: (D) = Democrat, (G) = Green, (P-C) = Pro-Choice, (R) = Republican.]


Ahmad-Taylor, Tyrone O.
06/24/92 Clinton for President Committee (D) $1,000

Araton, Harvey; Sports reporter
05/17/02 Carden for Congress $250

Arenson, Karen W.; Education reporter
07/16/02 Friends of Scott Stringer (D) $1,000
08/22/00 Hillary Rodham Clinton Committee (D) $1,000
06/22/95 Clinton/Gore 96 Primary Committee Inc (D) $1,000
08/29/94 Robb for the Senate (D) $500

Baker, Diane
03/16/98 Stephanie Tubbs Jones for US Congress (D) $250
02/10/98 Ferraro for Senate 98 (D) $2,000

Bearak, Barry Leon; New Delhi bureau, 2002 Pulitzer Prize winner (Married to Celia Dugger)
07/17/00 Dugger for US Senate (G) $250

Binder, David; Washington bureau
11/18/99 Bill Bradley for President Inc (D) $500

Blinkhorn, Ann
02/16/96 Kennedy for Senate 94 (D) $1,000

Borkowski, Monica C.; Washington bureau researcher
05/14/02 Torricelli for US Senate Inc (D) $250
02/14/01 Torricelli for US Senate Inc (D) $250
07/20/99 Torricelli for US Senate Inc (D) $250

Brengle, Katherine
06/30/00 DNC Services Committee Inc (D) $1,000

Brusseau, Antoine
08/11/00 DNC Services Corporation (D) $200

Burros, Donald
10/10/85 Women’s Campaign Fund Inc. (P-C) $500

Burros, Marion; Food writer

10/10/85 Women’s Campaign Fund Inc (P-C) $500
03/07/84 Mondale for President Committee Inc (D) $1,000

Cohen, Daniel H.
10/21/98 Schumer 98 (D) $250
06/30/97 Schumer 98 (D) $500

Costello, Robert A.
03/19/00 Hillary Rodham Clinton Committee (D) $950

Curtis, Charlotte; Society columnist, deceased
10/19/82 Bob Shamanksy for Congress Committee $500
08/19/80 Bob Shamansky for Congress Committee $500

Dobrzynski, Judith H.; Foreign correspondent
02/14/96 Women’s Campaign Fund Inc (P-C) $1,000
04/12/95 Women’s Campaign Fund Inc (P-C) $1,000

Domizio, Mike
09/28/92 Republican National Committee (R) $200

Dugger, Celia W.; New Delhi bureau (Married to Barry Bearak)
07/17/00 Dugger for US Senate $250

Flippen, Alan D.; Project planner
11/16/00 DNC Services Committee Inc (D) $500

Gefter, Philip; Photo editor
03/22/99 DNC Non-Federal Individual (D) $250

Goldberger, Paul; Music critic, 1984 Pulitzer Prize winner
11/09/95 Clinton/Gore 96 Primary Committee Inc (D) $1,000

Gould, Carole
06/30/97 Feldman for Congress $250

Gruson, Sydney; Foreign correspondent, deceased
11/15/91 Wilder for President Committee (D) $250
05/19/87 Americans With Hart Inc (D) $1,000
03/24/87 Friends of Gary Hart 1988 Inc (D) $1,000
03/05/84 Americans With Hart Inc (D) $500
07/26/83 Women’s Campaign Fund Inc (P-C) $500
03/04/83 Americans With Hart Inc (D) $500
06/27/80 Javits Campaign Committee (R) $500
05/02/80 Hart for Senate Campaign Committee Inc (D) $250

Innelli, Frank
11/20/89 John Innelli for Congress $1,000

Kaplan, Andrea R.; NYT Co.’s Women’s Magazine
10/23/92 New York State Democratic Committee (D) $200

Knowles , Joseph
10/18/00 Hillary Rodham Clinton for US Senate Committee Inc (D) $200

Lyall, Sarah; London bureau
09/29/03 Joe Torsella for Congress (D) $2,000

Maslin, Janet; Book critic
03/31/03 Dean for America (D) $500

Medenica, Gordon
03/25/97 Friends of Houghton (R) $500

Molyneaux, Michael
04/27/99 Friends of Tom Byrne $250
10/01/92 DNC Services Corporation (D) $250
10/01/92 DNC Services Corporation (D) $250

Morris, Olin F.; New York Times Broadcasting Group
09/06/00 Marion Berry for Congress (D) $500
08/24/99 Ed Bryant for Congress (R) $200
02/22/95 Alexander for President Inc (R) $1,000

Moyler, Freeman
04/17/94 Committee to Elect Al Sharpton (D) $1,000
05/22/92 Committee to Elect Al Sharpton (D) $1,000

Newhouse, Nancy R.
01/27/98 Schumer 98 (D) $250

Richards, David B.
10/19/94 Ben Jones for Congress Committee (D) $250

Rockwell, John; Music critic
03/07/03 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (D) $2,500
02/04/02 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (D) $1,000
05/24/00 Hillary Rodham Clinton Committee Inc (D) $1,000
03/23/00 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (D) $750
02/24/00 Hillary Rodham Clinton Committee (D) $1,000
06/08/98 Bayley for Congress 98 $500
02/23/98 Bayley Senate 98 $500
04/17/88 New Yorkers for Jesse Jackson 88 (D) $500
01/09/80 Brown for President 80 (D) $1,000

Salembier, Valerie
04/20/94 Nita Lowey for Congress (D) $500

Shaff, Marian L.
10/24/94 Kennedy for Senate (D) $1,000

Sussman, Michael H.; Web producer
12/07/03 Dean for America (D) $250

Thomas, Robert McG, Jr.; Obituaries writer, deceased
02/06/89 Friends of Sam Beard for the US Senate $250

Vickers, Marcia
10/29/96 Women’s Campaign Fund Inc (P-C)) $300

Voereker, John
06/16/94 Tom Duane for Congress (D) $250

Wade, Betsy; Travel writer
0/14/01 Diane E. Watson for Congress (D) $383

Wayne, D. Leslie
10/02/95 Women’s Campaign Fund Inc (P-C) $300

Ypsilantis, Eleftherios
02/25/92 Tsongas Committee Inc (D) $300

Zane, Peder
06/03/96 Brian Steel for Congress $711


Fuhrman, Carol Fox; Arthur Sr.’s second wife
10/05/1992 November Victory '92-New York $1,000
06/16/1988 George Bush for President Inc Compliance (R) $1,000

Golden, Michael; Ruth Holmberg’s son
12/01/93 Senate Victory 94 $1,000
05/14/93 Friends of Jim Sasser $250
11/30/92 Moynihan Committee (D) $500

Golden, Stephen; Ruth Holmberg’s son
06/10/97 Schumer 98 (D) $500

Heiskell, Marion S.; Iphigene's daughter
07/18/00 Serrano for Congress (D) $500
10/22/98 Friends of Maurice Hinchey (D) $1,000
05/06/98 Friends of Maurice Hinchey (D) $1,000
10/15/96 Dan Williams for Congress $250
09/19/96 Dan Williams for Congress $250
06/28/96 Friends of Maurice Hinchey (D) $250
03/12/96 Minnick for Senate (D) $1,000
03/12/96 Minnick for Senate (D) $1,000
12/30/95 Reed Committee $250
08/26/94 Tony Smith for Congress $500
11/14/92 Liz Holtzman for Senate (D) (-$1,000 Refunded)
09/30/92 Tony Smith for US Senate $500
08/19/92 Liz Holtzman for Senate $1,000
07/14/92 Liz Holtzman for Senate $1,000
09/27/91 John Glenn for Senate Committee (D) $1,000
04/25/91 People for Mrazek Senatorial Committee (D) $1,000
04/25/91 People for Mrazek Senatorial Committee (D) $1,000
02/21/90 Yates for Congress Committee $1,000
09/20/88 Women’s Campaign Fund Inc (P-C) $1,000
04/21/88 Dukakis for President Committee Inc (D) $1,000
06/25/85 Moynihan Committee Inc (D) $500
06/27/80 Anderson for President Committee (I) $500

Holmberg, Ruth; Iphigene’s daughter
07/22/02 Bob Clement for United States Senate (D) $1,000
10/06/00 Tenn. Democratic Victory 2000 – Fed Acct (D) $5,000
10/04/00 Callaway Congressional Committee $700
10/04/00 Callaway Congressional Committee $700
09/19/00 Callaway Congressional Committee $300
05/26/00 DNC Services Corporation (D) $5,000
02/26/99 Gore 2000 Inc (D) $1,000
07/22/96 Tennessee Democratic Victory ’96 (D) $5,000
12/01/95 Clinton/Gore ’96 Primary Committee Inc (D) $1,000
10/24/84 Jim Hunt Committee (D) $500

Sulzberger, Arthur Ochs; Iphigene’s son
03/06/02 Friends of Houghton (R) $500
08/15/97 Friends of Houghton (R) $500
10/22/96 Friends of Houghton (R) $250
02/02/95 New York Republican County Committee (R) $1,000
07/29/94 Friends of Houghton (R) $500
12/03/93 Senate Victory 94 $1,000
09/16/92 Terry Sanford for US Senate (D) $500
08/20/92 Friends of Houghton (R) $500
04/03/86 Terry Sanford for US Senate (D) $500

Sulzberger, Arthur Ochs, Jr.; Iphigene’s grandson
09/28/99 Handgun Control Voter Education Fund $500

Sulzberger, Cathy; Arthur Sr.’s adopted daughter
02/03/04 Van Hollen for Congress (D) $250
11/04/02 Van Hollen for Congress (D) $500
10/08/02 Citizens for Harkin (D) $250
07/22/02 Citizens for Harkin (D) $250
07/28/98 Elizabeth Kelley for Congress $200

Sulzberger, Iphigene Ochs; the matriarch
11/07/88 Christopher Shay for Congress Committee (R) $500
07/07/87 Christopher Shay for Congress Committee (R) $500
06/08/86 Clark Abt for US Senate $1,000
09/10/85 Clark Abt for US Senate $1,000

Sulzberger, Judith F.; Iphigene’s daughter
10/29/92 Clinton/Gore 92 General Election Compliance Fund (D) $1,000
09/24/92 DNC Services Corporation (D) $2,000
06/24/92 Clinton for President Committee (D) $1,000
06/29/91 People for Mrazek Senatorial Campaign Committee (D) $1,000
06/06/90 Republican Pro-Choice PAC (R) $350

Be sure to read the March 10 Press Clips column in the Village Voice. Writer Cynthia Cotts has in it about my concerns regarding conflicts of interest on the part of the New York Times' top medical correspondent, Dr. Lawrence K. Altman.

You'll find Cotts' article at

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Forwarded Message:
Subj: Your E-mail
Date: 3/9/2004 2:30:31 PM Central Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Dear Mr. Petrelis,

In response to your recent inquiries to Dan Okrent and Len Apcar concerning
Dr. Altman, I've attached the information below.


Catherine Mathis
VP, Corporate Communications
The New York Times Company

All of the known outside activities of Dr. Lawrence K. Altman have
been authorized by The New York Times, where he is a reporter, and are
permitted under its Ethical Journalism guidelines.

Dr. Altman joined The Times in 1969 under a special arrangement
with its executive editor (then A. M. Rosenthal) that allowed him to work
as a reporter on medical affairs while continuing a limited participation
in medicine to keep his expertise current. Initially he worked as a
reporter four days a week and practiced medicine one day a week. When that
division of time proved impractical (because of the demands of running news
stories), he switched to a system of periodic paid sabbaticals from The
Times to practice medicine in various places.

He has not taken such a sabbatical in some years, but he continues
to make occasional rounds informally with colleagues at the NYU School of
Medicine, where he holds an unpaid appointment as clinical professor in the
department of medicine. In the past, he spent at least two sabbaticals
practicing there.

He has never been paid by NYU and does not write about its
institutional activities, though he is permitted by The Times to report on
scientific developments that occur there.

Dr. Altman's employment at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta ended in the 1960's. He served there in fulfillment
of his military obligation as a doctor, in a uniformed post equivalent in
rank to that of a naval officer. The time counted toward his medical boards
and toward the equivalent of a residency in the military hospital system.

Dr. Altman has never worked in public relations or in an advocacy

The Times's Ethical Journalism handbook includes this provision:

"Staff members may not serve on government boards or
commissions, paid or unpaid. They may not join boards of
trustees, advisory committees or similar groups except those
serving journalistic organizations or otherwise promoting
journalism education."

Dr. Altman serves without pay on the journalism advisory board of
the nonprofit CDC Foundation, an activity supported by the Knight
Foundation, a journalism philanthropy. The advisory board chooses
journalists for fellowships in attendance at the CDC and assesses the
results of their studies. The board pays the travel expenses of members
attending meetings.

Dr. Altman serves without pay on the board of the Macy Foundation,
a nonprofit philanthropic organization that supports projects in medical
education. In that role, he succeeded the eminent oncologist and essayist
Lewis Thomas. His participation was authorized by The Times in 1984. The
board meets four times a year to vote on grants. When its meetings are
outside New York, the foundation pays the travel expenses of the members.

Dr. Altman serves without pay on the board of visitors of the
medical school at the University of California, Davis. He does not write
about the institutional activities of that school.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
New York Times
New York, NY

Dear Mr. Sulzberger,

It is my understanding the Times is conducting an investigation into questions regarding a possible conflict of interest of the part of your medical reporter, Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., and I eagerly await the findings of the standards editor’s investigation.

In addition to the concerns about Dr. Altman raised in my March 1 letter to public editor Daniel Okrent, I wish to add another.

The Times’ current code of conduct for ethical journalism states in paragraph 32, that staff “may not be listed on the masthead of any non-Times publication, except for publications serving organizations of the sort described in paragraph 70. Common examples include a church or synagogue newsletter, an alumni magazine or a club bulletin.” [1]

I’ve discovered that the 1997 American edition of the Merck Manual published by the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant; Dr. Altman is so listed on the masthead page of the manual’s home edition.

On the following page, associations for the editor-in-chief and editorial board are provided, and, of course, for Dr. Altman, his top affiliation is listed as a medical correspondent for the Times, and his second is as an associate professor at New York University. He is the only journalist on the editorial board, which calls more attention to his link with the Times.

Although the 1997 edition is not available on line, the masthead for the 2003 edition of the Portuguese translation for the Brazilian market is, and Dr. Altman’s name and Times affiliation are again included. [2]

Since Dr. Altman is a very public face of the Times, and has been for decades, it seems extremely odd to me that he would be allowed to any way be connected to Merck, without raising a conflict of interest query or two from Times management.

As a Times reader, I am cognizant Dr. Altman’s reported on Merck in the past and is highly likely do so in the future. Merck’s business activities are certainly of interest to Times readers. Having a Times reporter serve in an editorial capacity for the manual may be one way of garnering positive news coverage.

Hence, I wonder if and how Altman’s professional relationship with Merck influences what he reports on the company.
Dr. Altman, a former employee at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Public Health Service, currently is on advisory board of the nonprofit National Foundation for the C.D.C., teaches at the New York University Medical Center, presently serves as a member of the board of the Josiah Macy Foundation, and is a member of the editorial board of the Merck Manual – all this raises conflicts of interest for me as a Times reader.

Please direct the standards editor to investigate Dr. Altman’s connection to Merck, and determine if his relationship with the pharmaceutical firm is problematic.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267



Thursday, March 04, 2004

Dear Friends,

On March 3 I posted a letter to the New York Times' public editor, Daniel Okrent, about concerns I have regarding what I believe are conflicts of interests for the paper's medical reporter, Lawrence K. Altman, on the forums section of the paper's web site.

As you can see below, the transcript of a voice mail message left on my telephone this morning, the editor for the Times' web site has removed my letter because the paper is conducting an investigation into the important issues I have raised. Of course, I eagerly await a further response from the paper, which will be posted on, once I receive it.

Also, below is a copy of a post I received from Daniel Okrent.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA
Ph: 415-621-6267


Subj: Re: NYT's Altman's many conflicts of interest
Date: 3/3/2004 1:03:36 PM Central Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Dear Mr. Petrelis,

For at least three good reasons, I'm not involved in personnel issues at The Times: personnel matters should remain private; staff members shouldn't have to worry about my opinions; my concern is what I read in the paper, and not who puts it there. As a result, I've forwarded messages concerning the recent termination of a part-time correspondent in upstate New York to newsroom management. I am told by the editors that clarification will be sent to anyone who requests it from

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Okrent
Public Editor


Transcript of voice mail message for Michael Petrelis
Thursday, March 4, 2004 8:52 AM (Pacific time)

"Mr. Petrelis, my name is Len Apcar, A-P-C-A-R, I'm the editor-in-chief the New York Times on the web. I have noticed your posting at the public editor's forum about Larry Altman and we have taken note of it, and it has been referred to the standards editor at the New York Times, who is looking into it and investigating it.

"While that is going on, until we determine what exactly Larry's standing in these various groups is and what this amounts to, I would, I'm going to remove the posting from the forum until we can respond to it as an institution, as a paper and a web site.

"So I would appreciate it, I wanted to tell you that, I would appreciate your patience while we look into these questions and points that you've raised. They're very valid and I appreciate that, but I would like you not to repost the letter until this matter is, is settled by the Times.

"If you have any questions or comments, please call me at 646-698-8132. You can also reach me through an 800 number, at 1-800-698-8009, and then dial in my extension, which is 8132.

"Thank you, very much. Bye, bye."

Monday, March 01, 2004

March 1, 2004

Mr. Daniel Okrent
Public Editor
The New York Times
New York, NY

Dear Mr. Okrent:

As you must know by now, a controversy has arisen over The New York Times’ decision to fire freelancer Jay Blotcher, who covered the Hudson Valley for the paper.

The Washington Post’s widely respected media critic, Howard Kurtz, reported in his February 23 column that the Times pushed Blotcher out of a job because of his past affiliation with the AIDS protest group ACT UP. [1]

Following on the heels of the Post’s column was an opinion piece in Gay City News on February 26, which pointed out that Lawrence K. Altman, medical correspondent for the Times, “is a former employee of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and he regularly reports on that agency. Altman also sits on an advisory board that administers a CDC fellowship program. In other words, his relationship with the CDC continues. That would be an actual conflict of interest.” [2]

Gay playwright and AIDS community leader Larry Kramer, in a February 29 letter to Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., protested to the publisher about the paper’s “ridiculous dismissal” of Blotcher. Kramer also raised the matter of Altman’s inherent conflict of interest in covering the federal health agency. [3]

Here are a few details about Altman’s past and current relationships with the CDC, which you may not be aware of.

He graduated from the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, class of ’63, and then served as an EIS investigator for the agency.

In 2001 he recounted in an article for the Times, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the EIS, of his time in 1963 investigating, as an EIS officer, an outbreak of botulism in Tennessee. [4]

Altman also served as editor of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for three years in the 1960s. [5]

After leaving the CDC, he eventually became chief of the U.S. Public Health Service's Division of Epidemiology and Immunization in Washington. [6]

Altman has for several years has also served as an advisor to the National Foundation for the CDC, a nonprofit advocacy organization created by Congress in 1992 that began operating in 1995 with a $500,000 grant from the federal government. The foundation receives $500,000 annually from Congress to carry out its mission, while the bulk of its operating budget comes from public and corporate donations. [7]

The 2001 annual report for the foundation reveals Altman made a donation to the organization, though the amount was not disclosed in the report. [8]

Currently, Altman is on the CDC foundation’s journalism fellowship advisory board. He receives no compensation from this foundation. His colleagues include representatives from ABC News, CNN and the Los Angeles Times. [9]

Not only that, Altman presently sits on the board of directors of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation of New York, a philanthropic health care and education charity that owns substantial shares of stock in pharmaceutical and medical technology firms, such as Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Pfizer and Schering Plough. [10]

According to the IRS 990 return for the Macy Foundation, part of Altman’s contact information is the Times’ address and his direct phone number at the paper. [11]

By the way, the foundation reports more than $140 million in assets in the IRS return.

After reading this IRS return, I phoned the foundation and was told that Altman has been a member of the board since 1985.

Additionally, he is a longstanding clinical professor at New York University’s Medical Center’s School of Medicine, and his contact information in this capacity lists the Times as the place where students and teaching colleagues can reach him. He joined the NYU staff in 1970. [12, 13]

Why is it Altman is allowed by the Times to have past and current associations with federal health agencies, serve as a professor at a major university, sit on the board of a nonprofit organization, and the paper does not view any of this as a conflict of interest?

While at the same time, Blotcher’s prior connection to ACT UP is reason for dismissal?

(Full disclosure: I am a friend of Blotcher’s and have been since we met at an ACT UP meeting in 1987.)

I would appreciate a prompt reply.

Michael Petrelis


8., P. 16

[The following letter was sent by Kramer to the Times on Feb. 29.]


Mr. Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

Dear Mr. Sulzberger,

I am writing to protest the Times' ridiculous dismissal of Jay Blotcher,
who was an upstate stringer for you, because he had once been a member of
ACT UP. According to reporting on this incident in the Gay City News of
February 26th, Susan Edgerley, the Times' metropolitan editor said, "I am
setting the bar high to protect against any appearance of conflict of
interest that might result through the hiring of stringers and leg-people.
My motivation is expediency as well as ethics." What kind of gobbledegook
is this? Both Ms. Estridge and Jay's editor, Lew Serviss, stated under
questioning by Jay and Duncan Osborne who wrote the Gay City News piece:,
"[Jay's] name was recognized as someone in ACT UP." What kind of
McCarthy-type of blacklisting is this?

Blotcher is a well-known writer for gay publications. He is a fine and
honorable man, much loved by those who know him, without a mean or
spiteful or vindictive or vengeful bone in his body. Jay was praised by
his Times editors and given increasingly more assignments. The stories he
did write had nothing to do with AIDS or gay. Please explain to me where
the conflict of interest lies? He has no current political or activist
affiliations. So where is the conflict of interest? Or unethical behavior?

Indeed, what kind of conflict of interest is being a member of ACT UP so
many years ago? ACT UP was an activist organization that excited the
participation of many many people, both gay and straight, at a time when
gay men were literally dying like flies. There are still a number of
members of your staff who fall into this catetgory of early ACT UP
participants. Perhaps Ms. Edgerley would like me to provide her with the
names of these Times staffers so she can fire them too for conflict of
interest, providing they are still alive, which one of the best-known
Times ACT UPpers, Jeffrey Schmalz, is not. You do not dismiss Larry Altman
from writing for you because of conflict of interest; he writes about the
CDC all the time and he once worked for them. Bernard Weinraub writes
about Hollywood and his wife heads Columbia Pictures. Talk about conflict
of interest. Indeed I have written for your newspaper and your magazine a
number of times and no one appeared to find my contributions unethical.
Indeed, just what kind of "ethics" is Ms. Edgerley referring to? I would
sincerely like to know. And so should you. Yes, it all smacks very much
of McCarthy-type blacklisting to me.

It is a goodly number of years since gay people considered, quite rightly,
the New York Times our enemy, for your unconscionable refusal to write
about us in any but the most hateful of ways, and for so long, and for
your wretched, shameful early lack of coverage of AIDS. And, yes, among
other actions, we marched on your father's Fifth Avenue apartment. Since
then the world has changed and the Times, thank goodness, has changed,
much of this due to your own fine self. To punish now, at this late date,
a member of an organization that is now almost moribund strikes me as
unconscionable behavior on the part of the Times, all over again.

Perhaps you could investigate and enlighten me on just what is going on
here. We are not talking about a full-time or staff writer here. We are
talking about an upstate stringer! If the budget of the Times could no
longer support his meager income from you, then surely someone should just
have fired him and said, "we can't afford you anymore." But to go through
this "conflict of interest" and "ethics" stuff is a rather insensitive and
possibly, if not defamatory, if not homophobic, if not discriminatory,
then perhaps a little bit of each all rolled together into a rather stupid
and inexplicable act on the part of someone on your paper.

If past, or indeed current, political affiliations are cause for
dismissal, then perhaps you should revise your Times Code of Ethics
accordingly or summarily dismiss the scores of NYT staffers who no doubt
fit this bill.

And yes, I founded ACT UP. A long time ago. When we were all very young.
No conflict of interest on this end.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Larry Kramer