As an example, he points to an incident at the Raleigh News & Observer, wherein an editor added details that resulted in the story describing someone watching a football game that never happened.
No doubt that editor felt horrible about the mistake. And on the other side of things, editors are sometimes unfairly accused of mangling copy. Last month, Kris DeRego, a student writer for the student newspaper at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, was accused of being a serial fabricator. How did he explain the litany of unverifiriable sources and other information in his work? By blaming the copy editors.
In a written statement to a local paper, he explained that his work was “adulterated during the copy (editing) process — a problem encountered by other staff members working at Ka Leo.”
John McIntyre, the former head of the copy desk at the Baltimore Sun, offered a nice summary of the error insertion issue on his blog:
It would be idle to pretend that copy editors do not make mistakes, even inserting errors into texts — I bear the scars of many such lapses myself. But I have also seen over the years how tempting it is for some reporters to condemn the copy desk before determining the facts. The human reflex to shift blame elsewhere, especially on a target group, is quite strong. Any number of times I have reported to work to take up the day’s fresh complaints, discovering frequently on examination that the reporter actually made the error, or the originating editor made the error, or even, on some occasions, that there was actually no error.
Which brings me back to the wafer. We know that an editor inserted the inaccurate information. But there’s so much we don’t know: who they are, why they did it, and whether they deliberately chose not to inform the reporters prior to publication. The apology has been made, but we’re still waiting for an explanation. The incident also brings to mind a final bit of advice offered by Robinson.
“The other rule that both editors and reporters are expected to follow is that old saw: ‘When in doubt leave it out’,” he wrote.
Correction of the Week
“‘Men of Israel’: In the Big Picture column in Monday’s Calendar, an item about the film ‘Men of Israel’ described Michael Lucas of New York-based Lucas Entertainment as a former porn actor whose company produces gay porn. A spokesman for Lucas says he still has an active career as a performer in the adult industry.” – Los Angeles Times