By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Correction confusion

A correction uncorrected — or technically accurate? You make the call. Check out these excerpts from the New York Times concerning Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s reaction to President Bush’s plan to send more American troops to Iraq.

News story, Jan. 12:

The Iraqi leader, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, failed to appear at a news conference and avoided any public comment. He left the government’s response to an official spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, who gave what amounted to a backhanded approval of the troop increase and emphasized that Iraqis, not Americans, would set the future course in the war.

Correction, Jan. 13:

An article yesterday about the Iraqi government’s response to plans by President Bush to deploy additional troops referred incorrectly to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s absence from the government’s news conference. Mr. Maliki was never scheduled to speak; it was not that he “failed to appear.”

Editorial, Jan. 14:

Now, with Mr. Bush unwilling or unable to persuade Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to take the minimum steps necessary to justify any deeper American commitment, we recognize that even that has become unrealistic. Mr. Maliki gave the latest White House plan an even chillier reception than it received in the United States Congress, boycotting a Thursday news conference in Baghdad announcing it. He apparently would have preferred to see American forces sent to fight Sunni insurgents in western Anbar Province, leaving Baghdad as a free-fire zone for his Shiite militia partners.

It looks to me as though the Times editorial backs off the previous day’s correction and re-embraces the first account, in which it was reported that Maliki “failed to appear.” I don’t think you can “boycott” an event at which you were never scheduled to appear. So no, I’d say the editorial is not technically accurate, at least if the correction is, you know, correct.

Which raises a question: Does the Sunday editorial page go to bed so early that a correction published in Saturday’s paper can’t be taken into account? And even if that’s true, shouldn’t the Web version of the editorial have been updated?

More: Media Nation has been reliably informed that (1) the Sunday editorial page ships on Friday afternoon and (2) corrections generally don’t appear on the Web before they’ve been published in the print edition. So there you go.

Discover more from Media Nation

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.


Why journalism matters


Conversation versus competition


  1. A.J. Cordi

    Let’s wait and see what they publish tomorrow…

  2. Ken D.

    That “correction” caught my eye as well; it seemed clumsily worded. “Never scheduled” and “failed to appear” are not a direct contradiction, as the correction implies. It probably should have said, “Mr. Maliki was never scheduled to speak, and the article should not have been worded in a way that could be read to imply otherwise.” However, all of the entries are cryptic, and the bottom line is that there is probably more to the story than any of these entries state.

  3. Anonymous

    Peter here.The correction and lack of agreeement with the editorial look sloppy to me. One could imagine a scenario in which Mr. Maliki was invited but refused to appear, effectively boycotting. In that case he may never have been scheduled and both the correction and the editorial could be correct.

  4. neil

    And even if Maliki were scheduled to appear, then didn’t, doesn’t amount to a “boycott” which implies a principle of protest. He may instead have simply decided to skip it. Maybe an upset stomach. I wouldn’t blame him. It’s not like he’s hiding–he talks more to the press than our Dear Leader does.Indeed Maliki’s in a dicey position and may have simply felt not up to another “Kabuki” performance. For now at least he has to pay lip service to the US surge proposal which requires security in Baghdad first which supposedly includes engagement with all militias including al-Sadr’s Mahdi army. So even though he’s no fan of the surge because it’s obviously not in his political interest to clash with al-Sadr, he has to make the appropriate noises, for Bush’s sake. Juan Cole says Maliki’s resulting warning to the Mahdi army “is in fact code”, to lie low during the surge, leaving the US troops to chase the Sunni insurgents in the city. They’re not in any hurry, and as long as Bush’s policy depends on the fallacy of holding and “securing” territory, the Mahdi army can just disappear for a while, and wait out the surge. Maliki gets his short-term props for handling his unruly Shiite brethren, while in fact nothing changes. He can’t have any long-term plans without al-Sadr. I think he can only hope that when we finally get out and the pretense that this is not a civil war is dropped, that he won’t be strung up as a collaborator, as usually happens to leaders of puppet regimes when the big daddy goes home. So, press conference avoidance due to ulcer rather than principle, is my guess.

  5. mike_b1

    I remember when the Globe had an ombudsman to sort out (sort of) such silliness.Ah, good times.

  6. Anonymous

    Dan, your point regarding corrections and the fact that apparently the left (correction) hand of the newspaper might not know what the right (reporters and editorial writers) might be doing, but query. Which would you prefer? That a newspaper or other news media outlet not issue corrections, in which case you would never know that their original story was not perfect? (This seems to be the case with most news media outlets, by the way.) Or would you prefer that media outlets issue corrections, which corrections might sometimes interleave with the news reporting or editorials, and so there may be a discrepancy between the corrections regarding the earlier reporting and the later reporting and editorials?There really doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.It is easy to bash (rhetorically, of course) the NYTimes for the fact that later news reporting or, especially, the editorials (most of which probably really are written in advance) do not take into account corrections posted by the newspaper regarding its earlier reporting. What is not easy is to bash news outlets that do not issue corrections for mistakes in their reporting, because the people who read the reporting have no mechanism by which they might learn that what was being reported was in error.Just a nit.I don’t think you can “boycott” an event at which you were never scheduled to appearActually, it is possible to boycott an event at which one was never scheduled to appear, if one was invited to appear, might have been expected (because of his or her position, and the subject matter of the matter), refused to appear, and gave what some might consider to be an inadequate reason for not agreeing to appear. I would consider that a “boycott.”–raj

  7. neil

    Whether scheduled to appear or invited, doesn’t matter. In the first case you can change your mind for whatever reason and in the second case, simply decline. Neither amounts to a boycott. The point of a boycott is to convey a principled objection eg, “I refuse to participate in this sham process!”, otherwise people can just assume you blew it off. And it should be ongoing, not a one-time refusal, and involve more than a single person. A boycott is a movement. I swat at this gnat because it seems yet another language shift involving muddling of a duration, similar to “sustained surge”, or the Bruins “winning streak” snapped at two games. Part of the process of chopping up our already meager attention spans into ever shorter bits. Meanwhile the meaning of words that confer some benefit (“allergic”, software “architect”) are expanded and diluted so that more people can get a piece of the action.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén