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On Errors in Blogs & on the New York Times editorial page

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 6:59 pm - July 14, 2007.
Filed under: Blogging,Media Bias

Not long after I finished my post on how a New York Times writer misrepresented a recent Supreme Court case, a reader wrote in, noting that I had described as a reporter a man who was actually a member of the paper’s editorial page. As I needed to dash off to volunteer at Outfest, I didn’t have time to confirm his claim.

Upon returning home, I did a few google searches and found that while I had initially read that Mr. Cohen was a reporter, my reader was right. Not only did I have to change my description, but I also had to change the post. Which I did, despite the hour.

The fact remains that someone working for the Times misrepresented the issue before the Supreme Court. Unlike that member of the paper’s editorial board, I don’t work with a staff who can edit my work, check facts and correct errors. We bloggers have to do that on our own. That is often a time-consuming process. When I did my piece on Jimmy Carter’s silence on the kidnapping of Israeli Gilead Schalit, I had to do a variety of searches to confirm my hypothesis, spending more time on the post than I had initially anticipated — or would have liked.

I’m grateful for the critic who alerted me to my error and changed it as soon as I could. Just like Mr. Cohen, I write opinion pieces. But, even in these pieces, the facts matter. Or else the opinions can be more easily discredited. Or shown to be based on an inaccurate view of the world.

It says something that no one on the Times editorial staff caught Mr. Cohen’s error.

Every now and again when I review old posts, I catch a grammatical or typographical error and wonder if that mistake had also escaped the notion of our readers. Or if the readers saw it, they didn’t do, as some do, writing in (or commenting) to alert me to my mistake.

One of the great good things about blogging is that the comments section allows our readers a chance to take issue with our points and draw our attention to our errors. Our readers thus often serve a function similar to that of editors in journalism. For, unlike newspapers of old (and still today) we can correct our mistakes in the work we have already published.

Let us hope that Mr. Cohen will acknowledge his mistake. Perhaps his recognition will not much change the thrust of his piece, but it may well cause him to reconsider his opinion of the conservative justices on the Supreme Court. At the very least it will show that he pays attention to his critics. Because sometimes, as I have learned, they do have a point to make.

– B. Daniel Blatt (