Was the New York Times Wrong For Publishing Farrow and Allen?

I read dozens and dozens of articles about Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow, and the attic last week. After reading all those articles, I still don’t know who to believe. I’m sure that there are very qualified people who can get to the truth of these allegiations, but I’m not one of those people and neither are any of the authors of the articles. Either a man was falsely accused of child abuse or a child was abused — both are horrible crimes.

One thing is certain is that a family was horribly damaged, and the hate still festers 20 years later. That’s a tragedy.

After reading those articles, I have to say that I feel a bit icky. I feel icky reading about this troubled family. Even when you take away the child abuse issues, there was still so much selfishness and dysfunction in those stories.

By publishing this story and the rebuttle in the Times, I was called in to judge this situation. Why me? I don’t know these people.

The Times only ran this story, because it focused on the seamy underside of one wealthy, influential family. Since the Times published this story, doesn’t it have the obligation to publish the first person accounts of the millions of average victims? And why limit the public accusations to simply child abuse? Why not other crime victims that never had their day in court?

This article was link-bait, if I ever saw it. I think that the newspaper of record has to have higher standards than Gawker.


29 thoughts on “Was the New York Times Wrong For Publishing Farrow and Allen?

  1. Totally agreed, even if I was among those who read it and discussed it. I do not understand why (other than traffic) that decision was made. I think it indicates the kind of pressure media in general is under to get more volume of traffic, as ad rates go down. It was probably relatively free content and generated a ton of traffic and engagement but…at what cost to the idea of truth and consideration?

  2. I think the NY times gets to make their own decisions about what they print, and in this case, the letter was in Kristof’s column, right? not as a news story.

    I liked this article from the Atlantic.


    The article argues that requiring that one meets criminal standards of proof in order to talk about child abuse means that you would never talk about it. That the shame and sensitivity of the issue has always helped the perpetrators and more open discussion of the abuse is a necessity for prevention and change. I disagree that the article was published as “link bait” and think that Kristof has established his support of the idea that “silence protects the victims” and has made a career of trying to tell victims’ stories (and I see this motivation even when I think he is wrong, like about animal rights).

    That we hear this story in the media when it concerns famous people is the way the world works, and, honestly a way that norms get changed. Unlike the author of the Atlantic article, I don’t have an opinion on whether WA is guilty. I think only he really knows. But I think that talking about it will make it easier for some other little girl to talk about something that has happened her. We can’t know what happened in this case, but it’s absolutely a good thing to take out the shame of reporting that you are a victim of abuse (the “icky” that makes us all not really want to hear about it).

    1. My issue isn’t whether it meets a criminal standard of proof. It’s more that despite Kristof’s framing, which he might mean sincerely regardless, it wasn’t journalism.

      Look, I am not pro-silence. I have worked for publications which published first-person memoir, including abuse stories, and I am proud of that work. But there was an editorial process, not to prove people wrong but rather to ensure the story being presented was a good a telling of the story as could be. Because abuse issues are serious and complex and making sure someone telling her story is telling it in a way that is editorially sound is a way of respecting that story.

      In my opinion publishing Dylan’s letter was basically reality TV. Great, we can all reflect on our lives against the Real Housewives, but it doesn’t really illuminate.

  3. And, to the extent that one might think that WA has been a victim of MF (the hypothesis that the accusation was purposely engineered), my sympathies still don’t lie with silence, because I am more concerned about giving voice to powerless victims than powerful ones. MF is not powerless, but children are.

  4. Yes, it would be good to hear more about Thailand; I think the lack of coverage is unfortunate. We can’t just blame the Times — not hearing about Thailand is a function of the demise of the paid foreign correspondent who knows and understands an area. I’m guessing the NY times (and potentially no US news source) doesn’t have anyone there who knows enough about the complexity of Thai society to report effectively on what appears to be a very complicated and confusing interaction among the players.

    1. If they have any ambitions to be the “paper of record,” they should. Otherwise, they can devolve into a bunch of linkbait. It’s a distraction at times to read NY gossip–which is what the Allen/Farrow story is–but it isn’t news.

      Searching for “New York Times Thailand” brought up ads for the Economist and Wall Street Journal.

      1. I found hm, too, after searching the ny times and he appeared to have something to say. The situation itself seems very complicated, which might be a way of saying there isn’t a simple narrative arc.

      2. @Wendy, Nope, same results. I also searched the NYT’s site yesterday, and pulled up the same results. (although the NYT’s search results did not include ads for the Economist and Wall Street Journal).

        The NYT’s own “chronology of coverage” for Thailand did show the latest article, “Taking on Thailand’s Crisis With a Bit of Western Bite,” published February 8th.

        If you click on the NYT’s “Blogrunner” on their chronology of coverage, you’ll see links to other publications’ coverage of Thailand. If you relied on the Times for their coverage, you would have very little idea of what’s going on.

        Fortunately, on the web one can read Reuters, the WSJ, the San Jose Mercury News, Businessweek, Time, Voice of America, Voice of Russia, Times of India, etc.

    2. The NY Times has a Southeast Asia correspondent, Thomas Fuller. He has bylined articles from Bangkok on Feb 8 (which I read, sorta meh, weird hook to hang things on, oddly US-centric in this particular instance) and on Feb 4 (which I didn’t read). If he’s not getting on to the front page of the web site, it’s an editorial decision being made in NY, not any lack of a person on the scene.

  5. The more of a brittle nutburger MF is, the more culpable WA is for involving himself with her and her kids for 12 years. So either way, WA looks bad.

    I’m still scratching my head over the idea that MF and WA were allowed to adopt two children together while 1) not married to each other and 2) not even living under the same roof and 3) when there were already about half a dozen kids there.

    By the way, I was just looking MF’s kid count up, and MF “has 14 kids from her marriages and adoptions, six Previns and eight Farrows.”


    Holy cow.

    I wonder if Octomom needs a friend?


      1. I have the impression it’s easier to adopt children who have serious health issues. Several local couples have adopted children internationally; all of the children needed surgeries at young ages.

        They may or may not be ideal homes, but a celebrity couple, living in separate homes, relying on nannies, able to pay for medical care and education beats a third world orphanage, no medical treatment, and no education.

    1. Well, AmyP, he’s 78. Maybe not a lot of future marriages in him? There is a pretty well presented picture of domestic bliss of him and Soon-yi and the girls.
      It’s interesting to think of comparables, in public reaction. Ephebophilia – Jerry Lee Lewis and his 13 yo bride, he got a public shunning. Will and Ariel Durant, her parents were furious and they went on to have a 60-year? marriage. Roman Polanski, of whose forcible rape guilt there is no question, and much of the chattering class was saying (Whoopi Goldberg, I think, among them?) this is old news, why are we pestering this old guy couple-three years ago. Chuck Berry spent three years in the slammer for Mann Act, this was a 14-year-old, but when I was going to the Fillmore Auditorium no-one was saying we should shun him for what he had done.
      Pedophilia, which is what Mia Farrow and Dylan Farrow are certain that Woody Allen has done, and what Woody Allen denies – I can still make a perfectly plausible case that Mia Farrow invented this and brainwashed Dylan into thinking that it happened. And I can make a plausible case that it’s all true, and Woody Allen has skated after doing evil. I’m not reading anything besides Wendy’s comments here which suggest that ephebophiles are more likely than the run of men to be pedophiles.
      Should the NYTimes be publishing? The Times is a sad shadow of what it useta be. This is probably more important, in terms of people thinking about issues they may face, as another marinara recipe.

  6. Despite the obvious fact that I think WA is an abusive pedophile, I do think that once they’d published Dylan’s piece, they had to publish Allen’s.

    Another interesting read: http://excrementalvirtue.com/2014/02/08/brainwashing-woody/

    From the article:
    “We’ve all watched everyone become an expert on false-memory syndrome overnight—happens all the time! It’s easy to do! Allen’s defenders say. Totally mythic! False epidemic! say Dylan’s supporters. I’m not an expert, so I’m going to leave that alone, though I suggest we make a habit of implanting happier memories into children with traumatic pasts if it’s really that easy.”


    I think the post makes an interesting point that part of the brainwashing that has been done is whether the Previns and Farrows were really Soon-Yi’s family. It’s actually a kind of abusive way to treat an adoptive child, to tell her she never really was part of the family. Dylan was never really her sister. Woody is the only one who *really* loves her….

    And one last thing to creep you out.

    In Nov 1991, Cape Fear came out, a movie that includes a scene of a 16 year old Juliette Lewis sucking the thumb of the much older Robert DeNiro. Soon after the movie came out, Allen unceremoniously dumped Emily Lloyd from a role as the 17 year old girlfriend of his character in Husbands and Wives and hired Juliette Lewis for the part. Husbands and Wives came out in September 92, and Dylan’s allegations–including eventual findings of fact that Allen frequently stuck his thumb in her mouth–happened in July-August 92.

    1. “I’m not an expert, so I’m going to leave that alone, though I suggest we make a habit of implanting happier memories into children with traumatic pasts if it’s really that easy.””

      Seriously negative memories (or pseudo-memories) burn their way into the psyche way deeper than memories of baking cookies with grandma or walking on the beach or whatever. There’s no positive equivalent to PTSD.

      “In Nov 1991, Cape Fear came out, a movie that includes a scene of a 16 year old Juliette Lewis sucking the thumb of the much older Robert DeNiro. Soon after the movie came out, Allen unceremoniously dumped Emily Lloyd from a role as the 17 year old girlfriend of his character in Husbands and Wives and hired Juliette Lewis for the part.”

      16–there’s that number again.

      1. Oh, and there is starting to be effective treatment for people with traumatic memories.

        Here’s an older story, but I keep seeing new stuff about the effective treatment of PTSD:


        “Even though PTSD is triggered by a stressful incident, it is really a disease of memory. The problem isn’t the trauma—it’s that the trauma can’t be forgotten. Most memories, and their associated emotions, fade with time. But PTSD memories remain horribly intense, bleeding into the present and ruining the future.”

        “A typical CISD [Critical Incident Stress Debriefing] session lasts about three hours and involves a trained facilitator who encourages people involved to describe the event from their perspective in as much detail as possible. Facilitators are trained to probe deeply and directly, asking questions such as, what was the worst part of the incident for you personally? The underlying assumption is that a way to ease a traumatic memory is to express it.

        “The problem is, CISD rarely helps—and recent studies show it often makes things worse. In one, burn victims were randomly assigned to receive either CISD or no treatment at all. A year later, those who went through a debriefing were more anxious and depressed and nearly three times as likely to suffer from PTSD. Another trial showed CISD was ineffective at preventing post-traumatic stress in victims of violent crime, and a US Army study of 952 Kosovo peacekeepers found that debriefing did not hasten recovery and led to more alcohol abuse.”

        That’s the bad news. The good news is that:

        “Whenever the brain wants to retain something, it relies on just a handful of chemicals. Even more startling, an equally small family of compounds could turn out to be a universal eraser of history, a pill that we could take whenever we wanted to forget anything.”

  7. The important angle is whether criminal standards of abuse actually hinder or help prosecution of abusers.

    Many states have been changing the statue of limitations on rape (which was often around 2-7 years after your 18th birthday). For instance, last summer, Kansas eliminated the 5-year limit on rape and aggravated sodomy. Victims of violent sexual abuse get 10 years after they turn 18 to report crimes. About 20 states no longer have a statute of limitations for felony rape crimes.

    Another example: the Washington Post had a front page article last weekend about changing who can be prosecuted in rape/abuse cases on Native American land.

    Currently, if a Native American women was assaulted by a non-native man, the tribal police had no authority to arrest him and state police and federal law enforcement have differing amounts of authority, depending on the location, which often results in no response at all.

    (They reported that 86 percent of reported rapes were committed by non-native men.)

    That’s a big legal loophole.

    And to your point of this being an uncomfortable topic,—-while it doesn’t really feel good to talk about rape and molestation, it is important. It would be worse to ignore it, I think.

  8. The NYT should not be involved in publishing these first-hand accounts. It is just gossip of the weirdest and most depressing kind. When you know someone who has been abused, or says or believes they’ve been abused, or someone who has been accused of abuse, or if you are on a jury trying to decide whether abuse has occurred, then it makes sense to obsess over what actually happened. And I’m sure people do obsess over it, because you have to decide who to believe. People who are only connected to the issue because they netflix a Woody Allen movie every few years do not have to decide.

    If you want to do something about child abuse, there’s plenty to do (and plenty of other depressing information to become obsessed over). If you want to think about celebrities for fun, there’s plenty of that as well. The combination of the two is baffling to me.

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