A dispute has emerged between The Daily Princetonian and Near Eastern Studies Professor Michael Cook in connection with a Dec. 8 article, "NES dept. faces warring factions."
On Nov. 30, our staff writer interviewed Professor Cook. The dispute centers on whether this interview was on the record, meaning the professor could be quoted by name, or off the record, meaning the text of the interview could not be used without further authorization from the professor.
Professor Cook said in a statement that "at the start of the interview, I told the reporter in clear terms that the interview was off the record, but that I would be willing to consider putting things on the record at a later stage." In an email of May 31 following a prior interview, the reporter had assured the professor that "before this story runs, I will most definitely run your quotes by you."
Professor Cook alleged that the reporter "violated these understandings in two respects." The reporter quoted several comments from the Nov. 30 interview in the Dec. 8 article. In addition, he said that the reporter "emailed me the quotations he wanted to use at 4:26 on December 7, after I had gone home, and published the article the next morning before I had an opportunity to respond to him."
We have conducted an investigation of the charges, asking questions of the reporter, Professor Cook and several other professors interviewed for the article and reviewing a transcript of the Nov. 30 interview and email correspondence between the Professor and reporter.
We have concluded that the newspaper failed to adhere to proper professional conduct in our interaction with Professor Cook, denying him a reasonable chance to respond to and object to his quotations after an assurance we would give him such a chance.
However, our reporter affirms that the interview with Professor Cook was on the record. We stand by that affirmation, as well as the findings and quotations of the article.
However, our investigation was unable to prove the status of the interview one way or another. Notes were taken on computer during the interview. The investigation did reveal sloppiness on our part in the interaction with Professor Cook, and that sloppiness might have contributed to any misunderstanding between him and the reporter.
In another clarification, the attribution of "self-anointed black sheep" in the NES department in describing Yoav di Capua to a senior NES professor was in error. A professor had used similar terminology in describing di Capua, but the language used in the article was an inadvertently fabricated twist on that wording.