October 11, 2006

A Telling Mistake

The folks at The New York Times like to correct themselves. Or, to put it more accurately: In order to offer the erroneous impression of objectivity, the folks at The New York Times like to acknowledge some of their errors.

Each day, the second page of the Gray Lady features its “Corrections: For the Record” section—the locus classicus of self-serving mea culpas. In a typical installment of the paper, it features a few drab items, which tend to read like this:

A front-page article last Tuesday about the rising burden of housing costs nationwide misspelled the name of a Virginia county where census figures showed a big increase in the percentage of people spending at least 30 percent of their incomes on housing. It is Loudoun, not Loudon.

Well, gee, thanks. Now we can finally sleep at night.

Every once in while, however, a more telling correction appears. For instance, take a gander at this one, culled from the October 10 number of the Paper of Record:

An article on Saturday about a protest at Columbia University over a speech by the head of the Minuteman Project, a civilian border patrol group, gave an imprecise description of the group’s stand on immigration. While it opposes illegal immigration, the group does support immigration in general.

That, we must say, is a meatier correction than the misspelling of some God-forsaken county in Virginia.

Ah, but a look at the article to which this item refers demonstrates that it’s a rather misleading correction. Here’s the sentence in question, taken from Karen W. Arenson and Damien Cave’s lousy piece, “Silencing of a Speech Causes a Furor”:

When protestors stormed a Columbia University stage on Wednesday evening, shutting down a speech by the head of a fiercely anti-immigration group, they not only stopped the program, but also hurtled the university back into the debate over free speech.

So, in the original article, the partisan hacks at the Times offered their sneering assessment of the Minuteman Project: It’s “fiercely anti-immigration.” Naturally, the staff got caught in a bit of demagoguery; they plainly mislabeled the group because, to them, anyone with the slightest concern over illegal immigration is a xenophobic lunatic.

If you ask us, the Times, even when coming clean about its error, doesn’t come clean. We mean, come on: Its reporters didn’t give “an imprecise description of the group’s stand on immigration”; rather, it offered a partisan shot at the Minutemen that was obviously based on ideological antipathy. Either have the balls to make the real correction, or don’t even bother.

After all, this is the Paper of Record: Plenty of editors get their hands on the articles before they appear. Do none of the staff at the Gray Lady realize that the Minuteman Project merely opposes illegal immigration, not immigration in general? Forgive us if we find that hard to believe.

This isn’t like misspelling “Loudoun,” for crying out loud; this is one of the political hot topics in contemporary America. They could have checked the Minuteman Project “website,” if they’re really that ignorant about this (in)famous group.

Yet the goons at the Times, after demonstrating their inability to present readers with fair-minded news, cover up their errors whilst reporting them. It’s enough to make you become “fiercely anti-Sulzberger.”

Posted at October 11, 2006 12:01 AM | TrackBack