Published December 28, 2011
Did The New York Times just cancel home delivery of its newspaper to everyone, across the nation? An email apparently sent out to the entire user database appeared to suggest that. In fact, the Times even sent the email to people that don't subscribe to the paper -- a total of 8.6 million readers, rather than the 300 it intended to message, the company said.
“Dear home delivery subscriber, Our records indicate that you recently requested to cancel your home delivery subscription. Please keep in mind when your delivery service ends, you will no longer have unlimited access to NYTimes.com and our NYTimes apps. We do hope you’ll reconsider."
Was it a hack? Or a mistake? Or the actions of a disgruntled employee? Or all of the above? Yes, the Times said.
When former congressman Anthony Weiner’s embarrassing photos emerged in June, he promptly lied, dissembled, and did everything possible to cover up the story. The Times appears to have a similar strategy.
First the paper tweeted that users should simply ignore the email -- like Weiner's pictures, the email came from someone else.
“If you received an email today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It's not from us.”
It did come from the Times, however, suggesting that the company had been hacked. Then media watchdog Jim Romenesko uncovered an internal Times email that offered a different explanation.
"Dear colleague, please be aware that a spam message was sent broadly today with the subject line 'Important information regarding your subscription.' This e-mail was not sent from The New York Times. If you received it, please delete it. We will be alerting subscribers immediately."
But again, the email DID come from the Times. Romensko’s story suggests that the rogue email may even have come from a disgruntled employee. The truth may be far simpler.
After an hour of confusion, misinformation and mistakes, The New York Times' corporate communication department offered a mea culpa. The email was, in fact, simply a mistake.
“An email was sent earlier today from The New York Times in error. This email should have been sent to a very small number of subscribers, but instead was sent to a vast distribution list made up of people who had previously provided their email address to The New York Times.”
“We regret this error and we regret our earlier communication.”