Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Maggie Gyllenhaal Skipping Shifts at the Food Coop! It Must Be True, Because the New York Post Quoted One Person Saying So

The New York Post's Page Six had a juicy scoop Sunday: Maggie Gyllenhaal is not doing her shifts at the Park Slope Food Coop. The gory details:
According to sources, Gyllenhaal is one of the many celebs and VIPs in the stroller-heavy neighborhood who send minions to work the two-hour, 45-minute monthly shifts required to maintain good standing with the co-op and gain access to its organic quinoa, kale, black futsu squash, Mutsu apples and other produce. 
Sources -- that's plural -- eh? But the Post presents us just one for the claim that Gyllenhaal specifically has had someone else do her shift:
Neighborhood blogs first reported that co-op members were sending nannies, cleaning staff and personal assistants to work their shifts. Annoyed residents say the practice is out of control among the co-op’s wealthier members. 
“Everyone in Park Slope is talking about the wealthy members of the co-op sending people in their place to do their shifts,” one groused. “[The co-op] doesn’t know how to do deal with it. The celebrities are sending other people. While Gyllenhaal has done shifts, she has also been sending somebody else to do her shifts.”
The Post demonstrates that it has no idea what it's talking about:
But an insider said that “fancy members, like big actors,” can arrange “future time-off plans, or FTOP, so if they go on location, they can skip future shifts.”
Uh, you don't have to be an actor to do FTOP.

Anyway, what's odd about the Post article is it actually goes on to do some due diligence: it quotes another Coop member saying Gyllenhall does do her shifts, and quotes her rep with a great response: "Who would go? She doesn’t have anyone in her employ except me, and I don’t do it."

But despite all of that, and the Post only quoting a single unnamed source, they just went ahead with it anyway. Ok, that's not really surprising, except the part where they actually quoted someone casting doubt on their premise. (h/t Fucked in Park Slope for making this point already, and explaining some backstory: the PSFC 'nannygate' story was covered in the NYC media extensively a year ago; the Post is late to the game, but simply added the Gyllenhaal angle).

What's really sad is what happened after the Post story appeared: the aggregators arrived to repeat the report!

Evann Gastaldo's write-up at Newswer.com at least left the Gyllenhall matter as an open question, and Noreen Malone's piece at the Daily Intel was even a bit skeptical. But here's the thing: repeating the Post report, or even repeating it and being skeptical, is lousy if the initial report is so obviously sketchy in the first place. There's such a thing as good aggregating, but repeating anything you see -- or even repeating it but adding some question marks -- is not good.

And then there's the Atlantic Wire, which threw all caution to the wind: "Maggie Gyllenhaal Shirks Park Slope Co-Op Shift" says the headline. The write-up, by Ray Gustini, puts the claim back into accusation territory, but the damage is done.

Look, my point isn't that Maggie Gyllenhall has indeed done all of her own coop shifts. Maybe she has, or maybe the accusation is actually true and she hasn't. Even if the Post story turns out to be correct, it doesn't put the article or the aggregators repeating it in the right.

The New York Post never pays much of a price for getting stuff wrong or even making stuff up; that's a losing battle. But some of these aggregators, particularly ones affiliated with bigger names (i.e. The Atlantic) -- they need to be shamed. Only if they pay a price will they be deterred from continuing this kind of nonsense. So far, they haven't paid much of a price for day-to-day stuff like this.


At 7:02 PM, Blogger Devon said...

I love the outrage. I miss you. Let's chat soon!


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