Archive for August 5th, 2009

Clippings: August 5, 2009

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

The Las Vegas Sun has a nifty story. Guy’s wanted a Stearman biplane since he was 10. He grew up and got married to a woman who shared his dream. But a flying Stearman is expensive (Google leads me to believe that about $120,000 is typical), so they did the next best thing; bought a crashed one off eBay, and began restoring it. (Really. I didn’t know eBay sold planes, much less crashed ones.) The punchline; it turns out that this particular Stearman was used as a trainer by the Tuskegee Airmen, and may be the only one of their trainers that survived.

Meanwhile, the LAT covers the massive Nicaraguan banana worker pesticide lawsuit fraud, and does so in a manner that strikes me as tilting in the direction of the plaintiff’s lawyers; you know, the ones who are accused of perpetrating the fraud. Overlawyered has been doing a pretty good job of covering this suit as well.
(Brief summary: U.S. lawyers got up a whole bunch of lawsuits in U.S. courts alleging that workers on banana plantations were exposed to DBCP, a pesticide that supposedly caused sterility. Only it turns out that many of the plaintiffs never worked on banana plantations, or if they did, were never exposed to DBCP at a level that caused sterility.)

I meant to blog this over the weekend, but forgot to until today. Before I left, there was some discussion in our circle of the NYT “appreciation” of Walter Cronkite, which was embarrassingly error-ridden. The date of the moon landing was wrong (and this was with all the publicity leading up to the 40th anniversary), the date of Martin Luther King’s shooting was wrong (apparently, no one at the NYT listens to U2); if I had written an article with this many errors when I was a high-school journalist, Mrs. Kutsko would have kicked my ass.

Anyway, the NYT “public editor”, Clark Hoyt, addressed the fiasco in his Sunday column. You should go read it; the column is pretty blunt. I’ll pull what I think are a few choice quotes:

The short answer is that a television critic with a history of errors wrote hastily and failed to double-check her work, and editors who should have been vigilant were not.

For all her skills as a critic, Stanley was the cause of so many corrections in 2005 that she was assigned a single copy editor responsible for checking her facts. Her error rate dropped precipitously and stayed down after the editor was promoted and the arrangement was discontinued.

James Rainey at the LAT weighed in today on Hoyt’s column. He even went back and spoke to two previous “public editors”, Byron Calame and Daniel Okrent. More pull quotes from Rainey;

…Byron Calame, who told me that “a lot of New York Times editors don’t feel, in their gut, they have the right to challenge veteran and star reporters and columnists the way they need to.”

In fact, several people who work at the Times told me they are troubled that Stanley is a star whose continued accuracy problems seem to provoke no apparent discipline,

Both of the Times’ former public editors — Daniel Okrent and Calame — told me their critiques produced sharp rebukes from Stanley.

Okrent — who once criticized the critic for tone, not accuracy — remembers her as “extremely defensive and hostile,” while Calame said she attacked him as a nitpicker.

I want to say, “This is the New York Times, the paper of record. You’re supposed to pick nits.” But on second thought, that’s wrong. Journalism is about getting it right; it doesn’t matter if you’re the television critic for the New York Times or covering the Bozeman, Montana city council meetings. Being right – picking nits – is your job.