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July 07, 2005

In Case You Missed It: An Interesting "Correction" From the New York Times

Let me sum up: an unnamed editor made up quotes and falsely attributed them to the writer of an op-ed.

Got that? Just f'n' made language up and put that language into the mouth of a writer, as a quote. Not to clarify; not to simply; not to correct.

She (hey, there's that use of the feminine pronoun as the neutral pronoun; fun, huh?) just made up the following, attributing it to the Army reserve officer writing the article:

Imagine my surprise the other day when I received orders to report to Fort Campbell, Ky., next Sunday

And furthermore claimed he called his call-up to duty as the beginning of a "surprise tour of Iraq."

Okay? Got that? Just made it up, put those words ("imagine my suprise," "a surprise tour of Iraq") into the first-person account of the officer.

Now, for the explanation:

That language was added by an editor and was to have been removed before the article was published. Because of a production error, it was not. The Times regrets the error.

I should say it does!

The language was added... with the intention of subsequently removing it? What? Who the hell puts fake quotes into an article with the idea that, just before the print run, they'll take them out?

Do they think we're stupid? Are they claiming the editor/editrix just wanted to see how the false quotes looked in the article, the same as she'd try on a pair of shoes she had no real intention of buying?

They inserted language intended to make the article more poignantly anti-Bush and their mistake was getting called on it by an angry writer.

Note that you can juice up the language of a piece, but you cannot falsely attribute false emotions and false thoughts to a first-person narrative. That's the same as making up quotes and putting them into the mouth of the subject of a story-- here, the "subject" is the writer himself, and his feelings, thoughts, and words are his own "quotes."

Did this New York Times editor not comprehend the difference?

At any rate, over at Traffic Non-Santa, Michael Barone emails to ask if that editor is still employed.

If so-- then we have to assume there's a good reason for that... like that this is a common Times practice.

Complicated, which is why I didn't bother with it when it first broke, but now I must say... gob-smackingly vile.

PS: Don't trust the Shadow Media. We don't have the benefit of J-school graduate editors making up our own quotes for us.


Possible Alternative Explanation: The editrix added the language as a possible addition to the piece, intending to ask the author himself to add the language, if it were close to true, in order to juice it up a bit.

But the Times doesn't want to admit to that, either. They don't want to admit that they make "helpful suggestions" to writers of first-person accounts as to how to change their real-life, actual-world experiences to make them just a touch more "fit to print."


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posted by Ace at 09:58 PM

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