Over the weekend, the NY Times printed a full-page ad for the film Inside Llewyn Davis featuring a single, edited Tweet from Times film critic A.O. Scott: "I'm gonna listen to the Llewyn Davis album again. Fare thee well, my honeys." The ad caught Scott by surprise, and now the Times' public editor Margaret Sullivan delves into the "does this cross some kind of line" waters.
Scott told Sullivan that a publicist for the film contacted him, asking if they could use it—producer Scott Rudin saw the Tweet but for an Oscars "For Your Consideration" ad, Scott's original references to American Hustle and The Wolf Of Wall Street would need to be edited out. Scott told the publicist, "I’d prefer though that my tweets not be used in advertisements. That seems like a slippery slope and contrary to the ad hoc and informal nature of the medium. And changing the tweet is basically manufacturing a quote, something I avoid. So I’m afraid the answer is no."
The ad happened anyway (hey, Scott loved the movie!), and Rudin called up Sullivan to defend it, arguing, "If a critic is going to tweet it, we’re free to use it. We’re free to edit any review. We pull out what we want." Also, Rudin pointed out, "The paper running the ad is a tacit approval of the content of the ad... They took our money and they ran the ad." And that ad cost $70,000—nearly $1,000 per character!
Sullivan has some thoughts about the situation (like how the Times ad department could have contacted Scott before printing the ad), but ultimately decides, "In the end, nothing terrible happened here. But it’s a moment that, at the very least, ought to cause some internal discussion at The Times and the establishing of clear rules and practices." Phew—so time to make some t-shirts:
@emilynussbaum do you mind if I print that on a t-shirt?
— a. o. scott (@aoscott) January 6, 2014