The editors’ note showcases the cautious tone that generally characterizes New York Times coverage: “The Times’s coverage last week of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a personal email account as secretary of state involved several corrections and changes that may have left readers with a confused picture.” You think?
The note repeats the central, flawed lede of the piece, which was that two inspectors general had requested a “criminal investigation” regarding whether Clinton “mishandled sensitive government information” as secretary of state, when she infamously used a private e-mail server. “That article was based on multiple high-level government sources,” says the editors’ note. It’s unclear whether the reference to sourcing was designed to mitigate the newspaper’s culpability or to shame anonymous sources, or both.
Though the New York Times wrote a new article on the whole mess on Friday, it didn’t correct key parts of the original one until Saturday morning — when it finally made clear that the probe request wasn’t “criminal” in nature. “Editors should have added a correction sooner to note that change,” confesses the note. Neither the editors’ note nor the public editor’s column details just what took the correction so long, though Executive Editor Dean Baquet accepted responsibility for the slow-footedness. As for explaining it, we’ll hazard a guess: a sense of denial and a newsroom of roughly 1,300 staffers, where bad news can be slow to to break out of the bureaucracy.