How do you get a quote from Sony Pictures chair Amy Pascal for a column you want to write about her? It helps if you're good friends with her husband—and it helps even more if you show him your column in advance to assure Pascal that the coverage is positive.
That New York Times op-ed columnists kiss their sources' asses and promise positive coverage seems so obvious as to be a given. But it's always nice to get a look behind the butcher counter. According to emails leaked from Sony servers, first reported by BuzzFeed, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd appears to have allowed Pascal's husband Bernie Weinraub—a former Times writer himself—to read an advance advance copy of her column—which centered on Sony Pictures, and co-chair Amy Pascal.
Update: Dowd says she didn't show Weinraub the column, and didn't promise to do so either. In a statement emailed to Gawker—the same she sent to Times public editor Margaret Sullivan—Dowd writes:
I never showed Bernie the column in advance or promised to show it.
Bernie is an old friend and the Times' former Hollywood reporter, and he sometimes gives me ideas for entertainment columns.
In January, he suggested a column, inspired by a study cited in the L.A. Times, about the state of women in Hollywood. Amy is a friend and I reassured her before our interview that it wasn't an antagonistic piece. She wasn't the focus of the story, nor was Sony.
I emailed with Bernie and talked to him before I wrote the column in March, getting his perspective on the Hollywood old boys' club and the progress of women. But I didn't send him the column beforehand.
In the exchange from the leaks, reproduced below (click to expand), Weinraub tells his wife that he'd spoken with Dowd and that Dowd would be calling Pascal soon. "I'M NOT TALKING TO HER IF SHE IS GONNA SLAM ME," Pascal responds (all quotes sic). "PLEASE FIND OUT."
"you cant tell single person that I'm seeing the column before its printed…" Weinraub writes. "its not done…no p.r. people or Lynton or anyone should know."
There's no evidence in the leaked emails that Pascal herself saw the column—but there's ample demonstration of the Sony executive's friendly relationship with Dowd. Not only did Pascal forward Dowd a charmingly insane email about airlines written by Nikki Finke, a month before Dowd's column, Pascal offered to introduce Dowd and Times reporter Mark Mazzetti to an unnamed screenwriter, probably American Hustle writer Eric Singer.
If Dowd showed a pre-publication column to Weinraub (or, worse, to Pascal) it'd be a violation of a rarely upheld ethical standard preventing reporters from showing sources advance copies of their pieces. But the Times op-ed desk is untethered from the standards of the newsroom, not to mention the real world in general, and it's unlikely that Dowd will be reprimanded, let alone fired.