New York Times editorial-page editor Gail Collins writes, through a spokesperson, to explain how unauthorized first-person sentiments got into print on Wednesday:
When we edit op ed pieces, we often ask writers to add additional information, and sometimes suggest possible language. In this instance, the author had gone on active duty after the piece was submitted and he was working with an editor on a way to make that clear. When the editor suggested the sentences in question, the author rejected the wording and offered a proposal of his own which everyone agreed worked well.
Unfortunately, the right version of the story was sent to the kill file while the earlier, rejected version wound up in the paper. We’re still trying to figure out how that happened, so we can take steps to make absolutely sure it doesn’t occur again. One of the roles of the op ed editors is to help the authors make their pieces as lively and compelling as possible. But in the end, the pieces are the work of the writers, who must approve each and every change in their copy. The fact that this didn’t happen in the case of the Carter piece was so unusual, and so regrettable,that we ran the extensive editor’s note you saw on Thursday.