The New York Times building in Manhattan. (Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

Author and activist Nancy Levine on Thursday published an open letter on Medium directed at Liz Spayd, The New York Times’ public editor. Levine asked the Times to provide better coverage of child sexual abuse.

Levine also asked for transparency about a potential conflict of interest she believes is limiting the publication’s coverage of the proposed Child Victims Act, a piece of New York state legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting cases of abuse against underage children. So far, 38 survivors of abuse and advocates fighting against the problem have signed Levine’s letter.

“As advocates working to raise awareness of issues surrounding child sexual abuse, we would like to ask The Times to elevate its editorial sensitivity to covering related news,” Levine writes. “Can we, the community of survivors of child sexual abuse and advocates, count on The Times to elevate its editorial sensitivity to covering news that affects us?”

In the letter, Levine also refers to “an appearance of a conflict of interest” in “The Times’ absence of recent coverage of the Child Victims Act of New York.” In a separate piece, also published on Medium, Levine outlines the potential conflict and shares her correspondence with Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Levine writes that John Mackey, a co-founder of Whole Foods, expressed support for Marc Gafni, who was revealed in a December 2015 article published by the Times to have sexually abused a child. “As it happens,” Levine writes, “the wife of The New York Times Publisher and Chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., Gabrielle Greene Sulzberger sits on the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors.” Levine continues:

Presumably there is no causal relationship between The Times’ absence of reporting on the Child Victims Act and the Sulzbergers’ financial interests in Whole Foods Market. But to quell any concern about a conflict of interest … wouldn’t The Times want to pay close attention to reporting on the bill?

The Times also has not followed up on its December story about Mackey’s association with Gafni. The newspaper did not report news of coordinated protests at Whole Foods stores in New York City and at the company’s widely heralded [launching of the first so-called 365 store] in Los Angeles in May.

Levine notes that other major publications, such as The Washington Post, covered the story of the protests.

Levine seems disheartened about her communications with Baquet, noting that he replied to her initial query about the Times’ transparency by writing that “[o]nly someone quite paranoid would see such a connection.”

According to the New York Daily News, various versions of the Child Victims Act “would either extend the time that child sex abuse victims can bring legal cases, or eliminate the time limit for doing so.” As to the status of the legislation, the Daily News notes that Republicans in the state Senate blocked a vote from happening before the 2016 legislative session ended in June.

Levine writes: “I am asking Mr. Baquet and The Times to help expedite a shift?—changing the culture of silence that allows child sexual abuse to proliferate, and prevents long-festering wounds from healing. … In the midst of our boiling-over outrage about sexual violence, might The Times make a real difference to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse who are in serious need of a powerful ally?”

—Posted by Emma Niles

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