Email Exchange With Alan Schwarz of New York Times, Associate Producer of ‘Head Games’ Film (Part 2, ‘Game Within the Head Games’)

Will Nowinski Documentary Propel Concussion Debate – Or Bog It Down in Vanity? (Part 1, ‘Game Within the Head Games’)
May 7, 2012
New York Times Refuses to Comment on Why It Didn’t Disclose Alan Schwarz Associate Producer Role in Chris Nowinski Film
May 7, 2012
Will Nowinski Documentary Propel Concussion Debate – Or Bog It Down in Vanity? (Part 1, ‘Game Within the Head Games’)
May 7, 2012
New York Times Refuses to Comment on Why It Didn’t Disclose Alan Schwarz Associate Producer Role in Chris Nowinski Film
May 7, 2012

Muchnick to Alan Schwarz


Below is my post about your upcoming film. For a new piece tomorrow, please answer a few questions. (I wanted to cc Bruce Sheridan in case he is better positioned to answer the first question in particular. But the Columbia College Chicago website directory is balky right now. I’ll forward this to him later.)

There is no information on the website about the funding of Head Games. Can you provide it?

Also, I’m sure The Times has policies on outside projects by staffers, so I would assume that there was a process by which you disclosed your involvement and secured permission from the editors. Please share with my blog’s readers how and when this played out.

Finally: Does the film project relate in any way to your departure from the concussion beat? And what is your current role at The Times? The last time I looked at your Twitter profile, it no longer said you were National Education Correspondent, as the bio at the film’s website says.

Thanks and best,



Schwarz to Muchnick

1) Questions regarding the funding of “Head Games” should be directed
to the producers.
2) Yes, the Times has policies regarding projects like this, and yes,
I went through that process and received permission. As for the
substance of that process, please direct your questions to the Times.
3) This film has nothing to do with any “departure from the concussion
beat,” as that very voluntary process had begun in early 2011 (and
perhaps before, I don’t remember) and had been long completed when a
producer approached me last summer. I agreed to participate in
September, months after I had joined the Education department.
4) I am now a National Correspondent, period. I do not have any formal
attachment to any particular subject, although I remain very
interested (and encouraged by the Times) in covering news regarding
Education issues. I have been heading a massive project regarding
children’s health for the past several months, hence my few bylines
during that time.
5) I have never “promote[d] the idea that he and his buddies invented
the concussion issue,” either during the Costas show or otherwise. I
have repeatedly stated that this was news long before I ever showed
up, and fantastic work had been done at least 10 years before,
specifically by Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated. I agree with you
that OTHERS have cast me as having invented it, but I have repeatedly,
when possible, corrected them in that misperception. You might not
find proof of this on the Web — I know you will look, so I did — but
it’s not my fault that the many people who have interviewed me have
not included that comment in their stories. At the very least I can
send you the following note I sent to Mr. Farber back in 2009:

—–Original Message—–
From: Alan Schwarz
Sent: Wed 12/2/2009 3:07 PM
To: Farber, Michael – Sports Illustrated
Subject: from Alan Schwarz / New York Times

I hope this note finds you well. I just wanted to let you know that
through my three years of covering head-injury stuff for the Times,
and watching all sorts of change take place, I have been very aware of
the fantastic story that you did way back in 1994. I still think it’s
one of the best treatments of the subject that I’ve ever seen; people
treat me as if I’ve invented concern for this subject, but you
obviously were around far earlier than I, and long before what much
has been learned since was known. It’s a damned shame that your story
didn’t effect the change it should have, making my work unnecessary.
I’ve been meaning to write you for a long time just to say that your
story was great.


Muchnick to Schwarz


Thanks for your response. I’ll take up the funding question with Bruce Sheridan. And I’ll put the question about your conflicts-clearing process to Times management. (If you can direct me to the person or persons in charge of the latter, I’d appreciate it.)

I’m publishing your full email, including the nice note to Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated.

One follow-up: Since becoming associate producer of the film, you have had, I believe, one co-byline on a concussion story, and a solo byline earlier this year on the report of the Duerson family lawsuit against the NFL. I can understand the thinking of the editors that, since you are so knowledgeable on the subject, it was helpful to return you to it on an ad hoc basis. What is potentially troubling, though – and let’s not make too much of this, nor, frankly, too little – is the failure to disclose your role in the Head Games film. Any thoughts?


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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick