NY Times Explains Errors
By Don Irvine
Wednesday August 5, 2009

The New York Times public editor conducted a self examination after seven errors appeared in a single article recently.

From the New York Times

THE TIMES published an especially embarrassing correction on July 22, fixing seven errors in a single article — an appraisal of Walter Cronkite, the CBS anchorman famed for his meticulous reporting. The newspaper had wrong dates for historic events; gave incorrect information about Cronkite’s work, his colleagues and his program’s ratings; misstated the name of a news agency, and misspelled the name of a satellite.

“Wow,” said Arthur Cooper, a reader from Manhattan. “How did this happen?”

The short answer is that a television critic with a history of errors wrote hastily and failed to double-check her work, and editors who should have been vigilant were not.

But a more nuanced answer is that even a newspaper like The Times, with layers of editing to ensure accuracy, can go off the rails when communication is poor, individuals do not bear down hard enough, and they make assumptions about what others have done. Five editors read the article at different times, but none subjected it to rigorous fact-checking, even after catching two other errors in it. And three editors combined to cause one of the errors themselves.

The Times is not alone when it comes to sloppy reporting.  As papers have cut back staff and tried in vain to compete on internet time they have found themselves publishing stories that have not been proof read or fact checked at all leading to far more errors than before.

What is interesting with the Cronkite story is that Hoyt said that it was written by someone who has a history of errors.  And yet the editors neglected to review her story with a fine tooth comb.  Also if Stanley has a history of errors why is she still employed by the Times?  What does that say about their standards?

Crossposted at Accuracy in Media

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