About a week ago, Byron Calame, public editor of The New York Times, wrote a column about how a faulty Page One story went unchallenged. He notes that despite a questionable premise, the story was published and, though challenged by the company involved, went uncorrected for a week. The original erroneous report even provoked a piece of art on the Times' op-ed page before Times editors decided how to go about correcting the story. Calame's piece gives us a tiny bit of insight into editorial mistakes and correction policies in the news business, especially when the challenge comes from outside the publication.
A few years ago, the Times collected some of its more ridiculous errors in its book Kill Duck Before Serving. (My personal favorite was the transcriber error that led the Times to refer to an ultra-Orthodox Jew as a "Bedouin of Israeli politics" when it meant to say, "veteran of Israeli politics.")
But less amusing is what University of North Carolina law professor Eric Muller found when he scrutinized a statement on Fox News. In early May, he heard Judge Andrew Napolitano telling a story meant to support his view that federal government's commerce-governing powers are out of control. Though Muller searched the archives for supposed case Napolitano had reported, found nothing and then asked Napolitano for more details, the judge has yet to respond.
The Fox News issue, aside from not being a surprise, raises some other questions. At what point does a newspaper owe a correction?
When it has simply been wrong over a period of time? When it is being sued?" Or been fed a leak about someone that turns out to be wrong? When it has bought into the
administration's view of the world?