Thursday, July 23, 2009

All The News They Shouldn't Print

In his Studio Briefing column today, Lew Irwin writes:

New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley, who is likely the most corrected writer on the newspaper -- she is frequently cited on the websites RegretTheError, Gawker, and ReferenceTone (which called her "The Wrongest Critic") -- had her appraisal of Walter Cronkite worked over thoroughly in a corrections item on Wednesday, which quickly spread over the Internet.

The Times said that Stanley's article "misstated the date that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and referred incorrectly to Mr. Cronkite's coverage of D-Day. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968, not April 30. Mr. Cronkite covered the D-Day landing from a warplane; he did not storm the beaches. In addition, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, not July 26. The CBS Evening News overtook The Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC in the ratings during the 1967-68 television season, not after Chet Huntley retired in 1970. A communications satellite used to relay correspondents' reports from around the world was Telstar, not Telestar. Howard K. Smith was not one of the CBS correspondents Mr. Cronkite would turn to for reports from the field after he became anchor of The CBS Evening News in 1962; he left CBS before Mr. Cronkite was the anchor."
That's terribly sloppy work and a lot of mistakes for one article, but it begs the question: where was her editor? How does a story like that get into print without an editor bothering to check the facts? The moon-landing error is particularly egregious, considering the 40th anniversary of that landmark event was just three days after Cronkite's death and was covered elsewhere in that same newspaper.

Worse: the article was no doubt posted on the Times' website hours before it was in print. I know that anytime I get something factually wrong on this site, it doesn't even take an hour for me to hear from readers who have spotted the error. I try to correct the error as quickly as possible. I'm sure the Times gets the same kind of instant feedback, so why were they unable to repair the damage before it appeared in the print edition?

For chrissakes, does anyone in the newspaper business bother to read their own stories anymore?