The Public Editor Leaves Something Out

Last Sunday the Times’ public editor, Byron Calame, described how a canard had made it on to the front page: a report in April that the new Airbus jumbos would carry more than 800 passengers by having them stand up, harnessed to stalls. The story was wrong, but it went round the world faster than you can tie your shoes.

The problem with the public editor’s story is that it reprises virtually the same story by the Observer’s Gabe Sherman three weeks back. Sherman did his reporting on the heels of a lame-o correction of the airplane story in the Times on May 2. Sherman quoted a leading Times editor, Craig Whitney, saying that the correction was insufficient. And lo, the next day, The Times expanded its correction to an Editor’s Note. Calame writes, “The May 2 correction did not go far enough in clearing up the issue, and top editors heard complaints from inside the newsroom. So on May 4 an Editors’ Note essentially corrected the correction.” The Public Editor opens his inquest with a sweet bromide of journalism: If your mother says she loves you, check it out. (I never got that one anyway—tell me how you check it out.) Right now I’m thinking of another bromide: Credit where credit is due.

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