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How errors at the New York Times get past editors


As a mainstream journalist who works with editors and makes mistakes, I would like to weigh in on Alessandra Stanley’s error-ridden article in the New York Times.

The best bulwark against errors is accountability. If one person is responsible, screws up, and is embarrassed (or sued), that person will be far more careful the next time. Having a host of editors backing up reporters can give us the confidence that someone else will catch mistakes. This can lead to carelessness.

We could go on debating the value of many layers of editing. I’ve certainly been saved by watchful editors, and have been very grateful. Other times mistakes have slipped through. But in the Spartan journalism economy we’re entering, it’s more and more a moot point. These layers of editing are going to be cut. In most places, it’s already happening. We reporters are going to have to take on more of the fact-checking responsibility for ourselves—and share it with the public.


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