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October 06, 2005

New York Times on Corrections

We at CAMERA are often asked what the point is of getting a correction published in a newspaper after the damage has already been done by the initial error. An October 2 column, "A Letter From the Editor: It All Goes on the Permanent Record" by New York Times Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins gives one good reason:

The most important motive for correcting the minor glitches is history. These days, everything we publish is stored not only in the Times archives and commercially available archives, but in the files of an army of search engines. We don't want a college student of 2050 to come up with the wrong year for James Madison's death because of our error - particularly not when we have the means to amend the record.

Collins further announces her intention to categorize the errors in two separate sections—one for corrections of trivial slips and the other for corrections of material errors.

The news section of the paper publishes this kind of corrections [misspellings, wrong dates, etc.] in a separate For-the-Record listing. That seems like a good idea - particularly because it makes it easier for readers to notice the other kind of corrections, which really make a difference. Those shouldn't get lost amid the misspelled names and miscalculated dates. From now on, we're going to use a similar system. A "For the Record" column of errata will run under the editorials whenever it's appropriate. That seems like a good idea - particularly because it makes it easier for readers to notice the other kind of corrections, which really make a difference. Those shouldn't get lost amid the misspelled names and miscalculated dates.

Still, despite the column's somewhat self-congratulatory tone—"We correct all errors, from heart-stoppingly egregious to sublimely insignificant, because we believe that The Times should take its reputation for accuracy seriously"—the Times has been far from diligent in correcting editorial page errors. Read:

"The Worst of Times"
"New York Sun Hits Tom Friedman Distortions"
"More Times Tomfoolery"

Posted by RH at October 6, 2005 08:57 AM

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