Paper of Record acknowledges rash of mistakes

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Date: Fri Oct 06 2000 - 12:08:12 PDT

Suppose they got just a little embarrassed about that whole "The ice cap is
melting!" thing?,2770,10676_7_12_1,00.html


 Friday , October 06 11:32 a.m.
 "We have a problem. We're making too many mistakes." That dramatic
 lede comes straight from the desk of New York Times metro editor
 Jonathan Landman, who used it to kick off a cranky internal e-mail to his
staffers on Thursday. The
 gist of Landman's missive: Start double-checking your stories -- or else.
"It isn't a pretty picture,"
 Landman writes, going on to say that during the first nine months of this
year, the metro section ran
 253 corrections, 50 percent more than during the same period in 1999.
Landman ticks off some of the
 more egregious errata: "One reporter put something into a story aware that
it might be wrong, hoping
 the desk would catch it. Another thought something was OK to print because
she read it in a book. A
 copy editor let a mistake go by rather than persevering in an unpleasant
fight with a reporter."

 Landman doesn't mention Wen Ho Lee. But his note comes just a week after
some hardcore
 soul-searching elsewhere at the Times over the Lee affair, in which a
nuclear scientist was suspected
 of leaking nuclear secrets to China. Facing criticism of its early,
somewhat high-pitched coverage, the
 Times ran two assessments of its Lee stories and editorials, both of them
admitting to some
 less-than-exemplary editorial judgment.

 Back at the wayward metro desk, Landman writes that the Times has handed a
whip-cracking editor
 named Patrick LaForge the very Soviet-sounding title of "corrections
commissioner." LaForge's role is
 to force erring writers and editors to explain in writing why they goofed
and how they might have
 avoided the mistake. Habitual offenders will have to answer to Landman
himself, who warns that
 frequent mistakes will weigh on employees' annual evaluations. In sum,
writes Landman, "We all need
 to worry a little bit more."

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