The New York Times and its own correction policy
The New York Times had a sloppy mistake in a front-page, above-the-fold article on March 29. The error was minor, but the paper is still fumbling about and not fully correcting it. If the Times cannot follow its own ethical journalism guidelines on a small, easy-to-correct item, it does not inspire confidence in its ability to handle the big problems.
The article in question, entitled "Top Aide Leaves White House Job; Budget Chief In," confused outgoing chief of staff Andrew Card with his replacement, Joshua Bolten, in this paragraph:
"He thought it might be time to return to private life," Mr. Bush said of Mr. Bolten, who has served longer than any other chief of staff except Sherman Adams, who worked under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1958.I e-mailed the Times about the error (and poked fun of it) early in the morning of March 29, the day it was published.
The Times has since corrected the online version of the article, but two problems remain:
- There is no indication that the online article has been changed. This is in violation of the Times's own document, "Preserving Our Readers' Trust," which states,
A correction should appear in the text of the online article, with a note appended to inform readers of the change.
- There is no correction on the paper's corrections page, either in print or online. This is in apparent violation of , the Times's "Ethical Journalism: A Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments," which states,
It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.
Update: On March 31, the Times corrected the error. The correction
Correction: March 31, 2006Two cheers for making the correction.
Because of an editing error, a front-page article on Wednesday about President Bush's selection of Joshua B. Bolten, his budget director, to succeed Andrew H. Card Jr. as the White House chief of staff referred incorrectly to the aide Mr. Bush was discussing when he said, "He thought it might be time to return to private life." It was Mr. Card, not Mr. Bolten.
- The paper was made aware of the mistake early in the morning of March 29, so why did the correction not appear until two days later? (Remember, it is the Times's policy "to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.")
- Why was there a lag (of either one or two days) between modifying the article online and noting that the change was made? (Remember, "A correction should appear in the text of the online article, with a note appended to inform readers of the change.")
- Why was the correction appended briefly to the original article, and then removed? (Again, corrections should have "a note appended to inform readers of the change.")