Sunday, October 02, 2005

Times readers spared truth by Gail Collins

Without reading the New York Times on a day-to-day weekly basis, I've begun to suspect that editorial page editor Gail Collins is doing the Grey Lady a disservice in her position. Exhibit A:
This [use of statistics in editorial on aid to Africa] is naughty in two ways. First, comparing the ten year cost of a tax bill to the one year cost of aid is not the done thing in economics circles--any more than you can compare the amount you'll spend on food over the next decade to the amount you'll spend on your mortgage over the nex year, and declare that you spend more on food than shelter. And second of all, it is not quite playing the straight bat to include all the costs of the bill, and accidentally leave out the revenue generation.
Exhibit 2: James Taranto points out that where the NYT's criticized the Iraq constituion :
The draft constitution given to Iraq's national assembly last night does little to advance the prospects for a unified and peaceful Iraq. Nor does it reflect well on the Bush administration, which let its politically motivated obsession with an arbitrary deadline trump its responsibility to promote inclusiveness, women's rights and the rule of law.
Yet the NYT's heralded the Afghanistan constitution as one that
"offers hope that the beleaguered nation can finally evolve into a modern, democratic state. . . . And it balances the goal of an Islamic state with the promise to abide by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. America's ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, was right to call it "one of the most enlightened constitutions in the Islamic world."
Pretty inconsistent, I'd say, and sloppily so. JT says,
"Gail Collins & Co. are heavily invested in the idea that America shouldn't have liberated in Iraq in the first place. Failure in Iraq--unlike in Afghanistan--would vindicate them, and that is why they are so eager to find signs of it."
Exhibit III comes to us via Ann Althouse today:
After publishing his third correction on the Web, Krugman asked Collins, she wrote, "if he could refrain from revisiting the subject yet again in print. I agreed, feeling we had reached the point of cruelty to readers. But I was wrong. The correction should have run in the same newspaper where the original error and all its little offspring had appeared."
That's very kind, but uh ...I think we can handle the truth. She does add, however,
Collins also announced that the paper would henceforth be running regular corrections and "for the record" explanations under the Times' editorials. Today she published several in the "for the record" category. One notes that Krugman, Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich all incorrectly stated that former FEMA director Michael Brown went to college with his predecessor Joe Allbaugh. Another corrects where Mick Jagger made a certain statement about economics.
Excellent! I can't wait to not read them! Here's the correction she had to pull out of Krugman:
"In describing the results of the ballot study by the group led by The Miami Herald in his column of Aug. 26, Paul Krugman relied on the Herald report, which listed only three hypothetical statewide recounts, two of which went to Al Gore. There was, however, a fourth recount, which would have gone to George W. Bush. In this case, the two stricter-standard recounts went to Mr. Bush. A later study, by a group that included The New York Times, used two methods to count ballots: relying on the judgment of a majority of those examining each ballot, or requiring unanimity. Mr. Gore lost one hypothetical recount on the unanimity basis."
Althouse comments:
Obviously, this is a tremendously important matter to be precise about. There are many people walking around today who believe the recount, if it had continued, would have given the election to Gore. Distorted perceptions about the media recount have long served the interests of those who want to portray Bush's presidency as illegitimate. The notion that getting the correction right was a matter of bugging people with too many picky things from the past, a "cruelty" that readers should be spared? The only people who can believe that, I think, are those who now, as then, want to make the Bush presidency look illegitimate.

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