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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Production Error?

A couple of weeks ago, the NY Times ran this correction regarding an Op-Ed piece that had run in the paper:
The Op-Ed page in some copies yesterday carried an incorrect version of an article about military recruitment. The writer, an Army reserve officer, did not say, 'Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday,' nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a 'surprise tour of Iraq.' That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error.
This is what they call an "incorrect version"? An article that has quotes fabricated out of whole cloth by an editor? Well, apparently, the Times realized how badly this rather terse correction reflected on them from the letters of outrage that poured in, and decided to print a further clarification of how the error occured in Sunday's Times. Except that I don't think it makes them look better at all. From the article:
Captain Carter's message led The Times that same afternoon to propose the textual changes that alluded to the surprise of his call to active duty, the officer said. "Within 10 minutes" after receiving the changes, he recalled, "I said, 'No way.' Those were not words I would have said. It left the impression that I was conscripted." His call-up was "not a surprise," he told me, because he had actually "volunteered" for mobilization. (It's not clear when the editors first learned that he had volunteered for active duty.)

An e-mail response from his editor later in the day continued to press for mentioning the call to active duty. "O.K.," it said, according to Captain Carter, "but we need the personal reference. Not only does it make the piece stronger, we otherwise would not be forthcoming with the readers."
The article then goes on to explain how the version of the article that included the quotes that were rejected by Captain Carter was inadvertently sent to press. That part I can understand. A production error is a production error. (If you buy that's what happened.) What I simply cannot believe is the continued push by the editors throughout the editorial process to include misleading quotes in the article after the author flatly rejected them as untrue. I'm not sure that this follow-up article makes the Times' editorial staff look better at all. The only part of the article that I can actually agree with is the last line:
...the doubts about the paper's credibility stirred up by this incident won't be easily erased.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...the doubts about the paper's credibility stirred up by this incident won't be easily erased."

I wish that was true.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

As long as "fake but accurate" is the standard for the mainstream media, mistakes like this will simply be igonored.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

Well you have to at least give credit to the NYT for printing the backstory. I have no doubt that the same goes on at other papers.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Eli7 said...

Much as I do generally love the NY Times, my favorite correction ever is below (for an article about the Columbia allegations of academic indtimidation). It's long and ugly.

"A front-page article on Thursday described a report by a committee at Columbia University formed to investigate complaints that pro-Israel Jewish students were harassed by pro-Palestinian professors. The report found ''no evidence of any statements made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic,'' but it did say that one professor ''exceeded commonly accepted bounds'' of behavior when he became angry at a student who he believed was defending Israel's conduct toward Palestinians.

The article did not disclose The Times's source for the document, but Columbia officials have since confirmed publicly that they provided it, a day before its formal release, on the condition that the writer not seek reaction from other interested parties.

Under The Times's policy on unidentified sources, writers are not permitted to forgo follow-up reporting in exchange for information. In this case, editors and the writer did not recall the policy and agreed to delay additional reporting until the document had become public. The Times insisted, however, on getting a response from the professor accused of unacceptable behavior, and Columbia agreed.

Last Wednesday night, after the article had been published on The Times's Web site, the reporter exchanged messages with one of the students who had lodged the original complaints. The student was expecting to read the report shortly. But because of the lateness of the hour, and concern about not having response from other interested parties, the reporter did not wait for a comment for later versions, including the printed one, after the student had read the report.

Without a response from the complainants, the article was incomplete; it should not have appeared in that form. The response was included in an article on Friday."

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That NY Times article about Columbia was written in response to the aggressive investigation of Steven I. Weiss and campusj.com into those events.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Eli7 said...

The NY Times got bashed all over the blogosphere and elsewhere because they did something really stupid with that Columbia story. But it is one whopper of a correction.

5:02 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

I canceled my subscription to the Times a few years back, lulei demistafina, because their coverage of Israel told me that they simply weren't truthful. And I'm not the world's biggest Zionist.

So I'm not surprised by this stuff. The Times bends itself into a pretzel to push their agenda.

I'm disappointed that thinking Jews still read the damn thing.

8:53 PM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

I don't get the Times anymore either. But that's probably because I forgot to pay the bill.

8:58 PM  
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3:24 AM  

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