The New York Times was once known as "the paper of record." Its actions and embarrassments in recent years have certainly tarnished its reputation. But why can't they get the facts right on a classic New York City crime story? In the week and a half since Preppie Killer Robert Chambers was arrested for cocaine possession, they've repeatedly misstated a crucial detail of the story that the original tabloid television show made a part of cultural history.
Before Chambers was sentenced, Rafael Abramovitz of A Current Affair acquired a videotape that showed Chambers at a party, snapping the head off a small doll. "Oops, I think I killed it," Chambers cracked, the doll's head in his hand.
But in Sunday's (tomorrow) paper, The Times reports:
Shortly after the trial, a video was broadcast on the tabloid television news program “A Current Affair” that showed Mr. Chambers at a slumber party with several young women, including Ms. Kovell."I think I killed her." That's wrong. And it's at least the second time the Times has repeated the factoid, despite our mention of the original twisting of the words-- and where it took place-- on October 23rd.
During a game of charades, Mr. Chambers pretended to choke himself. In another sequence, he could be seen twisting off a doll’s head and saying, in a falsetto, “Oops, I think I killed her.”
Chambers actually said, "I think I killed it."
It. It. It. " I think I killed her" just sounds better.
And that's why writer-director John Herzfeld, who'd go on to direct movies like 2 Days in The Valley and 15 Minutes (the Robert De Niro-Ed Burns flick that features Tabloid Baby author Burt Kearns, along with Maury Povich and Jerry Springer, on the DVD), changed the line to "Oops, I think I killed her" in the TV movie, The Preppie Murder. Herzfeld's decision was criticized at the time.
So how why does the New York Times keep getting it wrong?
They made the same mistake on October 24th: