The comedy of errors began when the paper decided to send out an email to about 300 people who had canceled their home delivery. The email contained an offer to cut the subscription rate by 50 percent for 16 weeks.
Instead, a staffer wound up sending the email to the paper's entire marketing list - about 8.6 million people who had, at one time or another, provided an email address to the Times.
Mistakes happen, and you might expect one of the nation's oldest publications to take responsibility and fess up, especially when that publication is in the business of providing unbiased and accurate reporting. But no.
The paper's initial reaction instead was to deny responsibility. "The e-mail is SPAM and was not sent from The New York Times. We are alerting subscribers immediately," the paper informed reporters by email at 2:08 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.
At the same time, the Times tweeted this message: "If you received an e-mail today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It's not from us." But less than 90 minutes later, Times officials were "backtracking."
"An e-mail was sent earlier today from The New York Times in error," a subsequent statement emailed to reporters said. "This email should have been sent to a very small number of subscribers, but instead was sent to a vast distribution list made up of people who had previously provided their email address to The New York Times." As a final insult execs at the Times would not extend their half-off subscription offer to the 8.6 million people they spammed.