New York Times not sorry for cloning corporate apology-tracking blog SorryWatch

After launching ApologyWatch, a blog dedicated to tracking corporate apologies, the New York Times has itself been asked to apologize—to the identical, well-established blog SorryWatch.

Apology Watch? SorryWatch? Sounds familiar. Twitter tag “ApologyWatch? Sounds like our Twitter tag, “SorryWatch,” doesn’t it? Two writers analyzing apologies. Why, that’s hauntingly reminiscent of SorryWatch. ... We realize that it’s possible that Sorkin or Seidman thought of this idea independently. But minimal research, such as the research that must have been done to determine whether the name “ApologyWatch” was taken, will have brought them to our site. [Note: a search for "Apology Watch" before the NYT site launched would show SorryWatch on the first page.] Yet there is no mention of our existence in Sorkin’s piece. With the prestige of the New York Times behind it, “Apology Watch” is likely to harm SorryWatch. Certainly the similarity in names will confuse readers.

No apology was forthcoming, however, with the "great minds think alike" defense sent in its stead. As it has been pointed out the writers involved obviously knew about SorryWatch before announcing their new site, perhaps they simply know something about the legal implications of apologies that most people don't.

The language in the email from the Times ("we are delighted to discover others who ... want to contribute to the dialogue about apologies") is at least in the smarmy, shit-eating spirit of corporate apologies.

Gawker's J.K. Trotter has more icky circumlocutions:

[Andrew Ross] Sorkin told Gawker that DealBook was “delighted to discover others who are passionate about this topic.” (His editor, Dan Niemi, supply a nearly identical statement to McCarthy and Ingall.) Seidman invited the women to “connect and explore.”

Connect and explore! But don't apologize, because corporate apologies are, to paraphrase Sorkin and his new project, offensively insincere.

Notable Replies

  1. I hereby apologize unhesitatingly for confusing Aaron and Andew Sorkin in the headline, which has been corrected! This was not done accidentally on purpose.

  2. I don't buy it. The world is scattered with companies that couldn't compete when someone else entered the market. SorryWatch doesn't have an exclusive right to this particular niche. They don't seem to understand competition: "... the fact that we were there first, and the fact that their new venture could damage our old one." It doesn't work that way. They need to create better content and outperform ApologyWatch. If they can't they will go the way of the dodo.

  3. For the record, both of these are predated by the "Apologies of the Week" on Harry Shearer's "Le Show" - "a copyrighted feature of this broadcast" since 2008:

    Just sayin'.

  4. SorryWatch does not claim to have an exclusive right to this particular niche:

    (But suing? Us? Pssh. We’re not talking legality. We’re talking morality.)

    And they do understand competition:

    Sumac and I get that we live in a free enterprise system. (GO CAPITALISM WHOO.) We do not claim to own apologies — we’ve always given props to Harry Shearer, who reads apologies on the air on his radio show, and to Retraction Watch, a blog that focuses on science journal retractions and is so awesome I was forced to write about it in Beastie Boys lyrics.

    They're making a moral -- not legal! -- case that NYT should acknowledge their existence (just as they acknowledged the existence of other media outlets that likewise discuss corporate apologies). Since corporate apologies are themselves not mandated by law but prompted by moral concerns this seems relevant to the mission of both blogs. An NYT blog on corporate apologies would be pretty hard to take seriously if NYT cannot abide by basic moral principles. And of course, your "the weak are meat and the strong do eat" routine ignores the fact that NYT has a rather large legal team on retainer and if it came to any kind of legal proceedings could simply bury SorryWatch in legal costs -- even if SorryWatch had a better case. All of this is perfectly legal as SorryWatch acknowledges right along -- SorryWatch is arguing that NYT's actions here aren't moral which is a somewhat different thing than legal.

    One might argue that you don't understand competition as SorryWatch is absolutely legally entitled to make a stink out of this and thus raise their own profile as a result of the ensuing "controversy". Some might call that savvy marketing of the sort that could help SorryWatch outperform ApologyWatch. In other words, you almost seem to be criticizing SorryWatch for taking your own advice.

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