one thing that is quite amusing is that JC Penny will probably now get hundreds and hundreds of perfectly legit links through the article. everyone will be linking to them to discuss what happened in the NYT. presumably all those links will eventually count towards their backlink profile -- even though they dont have anything to do with the subject matter of the site.
how does a link to JC Penny regarding this article help you in deciding whether their product is worth buying? it doesnt.
what are google going to do, ignore all of those as well? i dont think so. that just shows you the limitations of relying on backlinks to weight sites.