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July 7, 2005
The Secret Life Of Gray Lady Editors

Sometimes watching the Corrections section of the newspaper can give readers the best instruction on the inner workings of the media. Normally, of course, one would expect that the kinds of corrections run by management fall into the category of poor fact-checking, which in this age of Internet and Nexis searches is inexcusable. The New York Times offers one today, however, that should raise eyebrows for everyone who reads it (emphasis mine):

The Op-Ed page in some copies yesterday carried an incorrect version of an article about military recruitment. The writer, an Army reserve officer, did not say, "Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday," nor did he characterize his recent call-up to active duty as the precursor to a "surprise tour of Iraq." That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error.

The Times acknowledges here that their editors make a habit of rewriting op-ed contributions, not just for clarity, but apparently to significantly change the meaning of the article. Take a look at the phrases that an editor added onto someone else's work, without having the benefit of experiencing the event himself. Both phrases indicate events that "surprise" the author, an assumption of a state of mind. Both of them, not coincidentally, make the military look bad. What a coincidence that the Paper of Record makes two "mistakes" that just happen to put the Army in a bad light.

Go figure.

This also explains why the media always makes a point in their journalism vs. blogger debating to point out its layers of editors as a quality control check. Apparently, they need one level for making stuff up, and another level to stop the first level from getting caught at it, at least at the New York Times. And this is on the Op-Ed page, where the only function of an editor should be to correct spelling and grammar and to cut out text for article length, not to make things up to pad it out.

Just imagine what all those editors do to their news articles!

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 7, 2005 5:51 AM

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