Inside Move: Pauley presses N.Y. Times in lawsuit

Former 'Today' host takes Gray Lady to task

NEW YORK — Former “Today” and “Dateline” personality Jane Pauley, known for her coolness under pressure, is suing the New York Times for what she contends was “deceit and duplicity” and “intentional misrepresentation.”

Lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, stems from a bizarre sequence of events in which Pauley alleges she became an unwitting spokeswoman for the pharmaceutical industry in the nation’s biggest newspaper.

Suit charges that Pauley sat for an entire interview by Sharon Johnson, a person she was led to believe was a reporter from the Times covering a story about bipolar disorder, which Pauley has admitted to having.

According to the complaint, Pauley was then stunned to see her name and image used in a Times advertising supplement that contained drug-firm ads and had nothing to do with editorial content. “In an effort to blur the line between advertising and news, defendants attempted to camouflage the advertising supplement as news,” Pauley contends in the suit.

Suit alleges that Johnson misrepresented herself. It also names DeWitt Publishing, the company that put together the supplement and for whom Johnson allegedly works. It claims Pauley’s image as someone who declined paid-spokesperson ads is tarnished by the ad.

Paper responded with statement that “Ms. Pauley’s assistant was told that the article for which Ms. Pauley was to be interviewed would appear in a special advertising supplement, and Ms. Pauley agreed to participate.”

In another strange twist, Pauley’s complaint cites as evidence the paper’s own public editor, who in a column questioned the presentation of advertorials as the Times is “scrambling ever harder to come up with attractive options for advertisers.”

But whether the Times is legally culpable for the actions of an independent company is unclear. Also murky is how a seasoned reporter like Pauley wasn’t able to suss out Johnson’s real purpose.

Although her suit asks for damages, lost profits and costs, Pauley’s complaint also notes that “injury is intangible in nature and not capable of being fully measured” and does not pin down a damages amount.

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