Just as I predicted on Friday, the New York Times had to make a huge correction today regarding the TVT Records-Prudential Securities story from last week.
This was the story that followed our exhaustive reporting about indie record label TVT and its parallel travails with both industry giant Island Def Jam/Universal Music and Prudential, the securities firm that arranged for some of its financing. Last Monday the Times, attempting to report on the record industry, erroneously reported that TVT’s owner Steve Gottlieb had lost control of his company and that Prudential Securities was shopping to it potential buyers.
Today the Times has run a 2,100-word correction in the business section, as well a further list of corrections in the A section. It's not as long as the 14,000-word correction concerning Jayson Blair, but it's an embarrassment no matter how you slice it.
But even in this massive correction the Times has left some vital information out that they either don’t know or have just omitted.
My sources tell me that the Times reporter who wrote the story, Lynette Holloway, contacted TVT and Gottlieb on the pretense that her article would be about TVT as an indie label. There was no mention of the label’s financial situation to anyone at the record company, or at Prudential for that matter.
“She never called us,” my Prudential source said. The investment bankers who worked on the TVT securitization and $23 million loan were shocked when they read last Monday’s piece.
As well, Holloway, I am told, didn’t tell the TVT participants that she had questions about the securitization at all.
“Her thesis was that we were the last indie label going it alone and taking on the big companies,” says another source.
What makes the Holloway story all the more curious is that even though the Prudential story of the $23 million loan and the Island Def Jam lawsuit are two separate incidents in the TVT saga, they have a common denominator. According to my sources, the same law firm — Proskauer Rose — has worked for both Prudential in its default case against TVT and Island Def Jam in the Ja Rule case.
Indeed, one attorney, Carla Miller, is said to have worked on both cases against TVT. Calls to Miller on Friday were not returned.
What’s happened to the New York Times? How is it possible that a reporter in the business section could write a story and not call any of the principal players in it for a reaction or a quote? Even more, with so much having been written about TVT’s various issues in a lot of local media such as the New York Post and Daily News, how could the Times reporter simply have ignored the basic facts?
What is very clear, however, is that Island Def Jam/Universal, with a $132 million judgment against them in favor of TVT, has been defeated in the spin game. Their next move will have to be a formal legal one: either appeal the decision and post a bond or concede that the label’s president, Lyor Cohen, screwed up badly.
The new issue of People magazine is out and contains a five-page spread endorsing a program affiliated with the Church of Scientology.
The program is Hollywood Education Literacy Project, and in the feature story superstar actor Tom Cruise credits it with curing his illiteracy.
But what is barely mentioned is that HELP, as it is known, has been roundly criticized by mainstream educators as a propaganda tool of Scientology.
Also not mentioned is that the not-for-profit Hollywood division of HELP — which is based at Scientology’s garish Celebrity Centre -- dispensed in 2001 a mere $100 in grants and contributions. HELP had total expenses, though, of $273,000 — more than half of which was for staff salaries. This is according to the group’s 2001 tax filing.
Was People magazine so desperate to get a Cruise interview that they didn’t mind shilling for this organization? The answer, it seems, is yes. Hidden in the story is the headline that Cruise was not able to read until age 22. The first reading material he had, he claims, was a Scientology picture book. That book led him to HELP and, consequently, Scientology. Talk about burying your lead. You’d think the news that Hollywood’s highest-paid, biggest star made it through high school and college as an illiterate would be something even People would question. But they allow Cruise to make this statement without comment, as if it were normal.
People also gives little space to the many vociferous critics of Scientology and of HELP, mentioning only briefly that they exist. This came as a surprise to Carnegie Mellon University professor David S. Touretzky. The professor, who has written an exhaustive analysis of HELP, said, “Fannie Weinstein, the reporter, called me and talked to me a lot. She went out and got all the source materials and did a lot of research. But I was cut out of the story.”
Touretzky, who appears on Scientology’s many “hit lists” because he’s criticized them so much, is the author of a well-known take out on HELP. His findings (which can be found at www.studytech.org) are enough to make the hair of an average parent stand straight up, but People magazine didn’t think they were worth including. Touretzky says that HELP is a rigid learning system full of Scientology jargon, lingo and philosophy, and is designed to lead participants straight into the science fiction-worshipping, pay-through-the-nose “religion.”
He writes that Study Tech — the HELP manual — “is no more a secular learning methodology than wine and communion wafers are a Sunday morning snack. ... Indoctrinating students into Study Tech’s unconventional language and world view, with its implied acceptance of L. Ron Hubbard as authority figure, would do much to soften them up for future recruitment into Scientology itself.”
HELP, according to Touretzky, doesn’t allow a student to question any of its practices or theories. Yawning or looking bored during a HELP session is considered a high crime. This would seem to be in line with Scientology’s insistence that attention deficit disorder (ADD) does not exist and should not be treated with drugs like Ritalin. Instead, students who have trouble concentrating on HELP materials are commanded to keep going over it until it’s been drilled into their heads.
The whole matter of People caving in to what is essentially Scientology advertorial should raise some questions this morning over at AOL Time Warner. After all, it was in 1991 that People’s older-brother magazine, Time, ran a now famous cover story on the evils of L. Ron Hubbard’s cult. The story became a cause célèbre as Scientology sued Time, Inc. and eventually lost. Ironically, none of HELP materials carry a byline, although all of them are copyrighted to Scientology and Hubbard. This, Touretzky points out, is even weirder considering Hubbard died in 1986. The HELP books are dated 1992.