Late last week, New York Times print readers may have come across a full-page ad featuring Times film critic A.O. Scott, apparently excitedly praising the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack on behalf of the movie. The ad made some sense in a strange way, if only because it's Oscar season. However, Scott's halfway amused response (to say nothing of how the press and Twitter reacted) revealed that something was a little off with his casually broadcasted thoughts being co-opted to sell tickets. Now, the Times' public editor reveals that not only did Scott not know about the ad running in his own newspaper, but that he had told producer Scott Rudin not to use the tweet to create the ad.
It turns out that Scott does really enjoy the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack, at least when compared to fellow Oscar contenders The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle:
You all keep fighting about Wolf of Wall St. and Am Hustle. I'm gonna listen to the Llewyn Davis album again. Fare thee well, my honeys.— a. o. scott (@aoscott) December 31, 2013
According to the Times, the writer was approached by Rudin to use the tweet, edited down to avoid saying anything disparaging about the movie's competitors. Scott responded saying:
Well this is a new one. 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.
Except the ad ran anyway, sold through the New York Times ad department for $70,000. Rudin told the Times that the move wasn't an issue. "If a critic is going to tweet it, we’re free to use it," he told the paper. "We’re free to edit any review. We pull out what we want." However, the move — and the lack of communication between the Times' editorial and ad departments — underscores how journalists who make their voices heard online can be put in unexpectedly awkward position by forces looking to monetize their words. As Scott himself tweeted:
we have reached a strange new place in marketing when tweets become full-page print ads.— a. o. scott (@aoscott) January 4, 2014
The most interesting question of all, however, is whether or not Twitter's terms of service were violated by the tweet being used. According to the platform's rules, the content of tweets may not be reprinted for commercial use "without explicit permission of the original content creator." While Scott may work for The New York Times, he seems to wholly own and operate his Twitter feed. Whether the Times spoke out of turn when negotiating the ad deal or Rudin just ignored Scott's request, the critic clearly has a few things to be bothered by today.