Similarly, the article notes that Gillibrand was “one of five” Davis Polk lawyers designated to train Philip Morris employees about “sensitive legal issues.” But again, Gillibrand’s scarlet A is more reductively illustrated by the assertion that “she was viewed so positively by Philip Morris”—that’s the more sordid detail, if you will.

In other words, the reporters bolster the details they uncovered through document reviews and interviews with statements that suggest an understanding of Gillibrand’s motivations while at Davis Polk—and those serve as a detriment to the researched facts that the story presents.

If the object in Gillibrand’s rearview mirror is in fact larger than it appears, then such guilt-by-association tactics—effectively conflating the actions of a young, ambitious lawyer with the un-provable desire to defend an unsavory corporate client—are not the way to do it. The Times story seems to hinge on the fact that this previous employment is politically inconvenient for Gillibrand, who will defend her Senate seat next year—and builds a character portrait that exceeds the facts on display.

Jane Kim is a writer in New York.