Stanley has been responsible for nine corrections so far this year. By my count in Nexis, she had fourteen corrections in 2008, twelve in 2007, and fifteen in 2006. Averaging just over a correction a month is not something to be proud of. But that’s still better than before she attracted so much attention. Stanley had twenty-three corrections in 2005, the year everyone noticed her predilection for error, and twenty-six in 2004. Perhaps the decline in corrections between 2005 and 2006 was in part due to the attention focused on her.
Given this week’s correction, however, I have to conclude that scrutiny alone isn’t enough to solve the problem.
A couple of years ago, I was told by a Times editor that the union contract allows managers to bring up a reporter’s correction rate during a performance review. Given the attention her errors have attracted, I assume Stanley has been spoken to about this. Maybe it was another factor that caused her drop in corrections in 2006. Unfortunately, the truth is that actions taken by her and the paper haven’t been enough.
I don’t know the circumstances that led to this week’s errors. But if you’re Alessandra Stanley, you simply can’t make mistakes like these in a single article. I have to assume she takes accuracy seriously, and not just because she knows Gawker is paying attention. But whatever system she has for checking her work isn’t sufficient. The same goes for how the copy desk is handling her articles. The Times can let her twist in the wind with errors like these, or realize this situation is hurting the organization and come up with a training program that helps her stop making simple factual errors at such an alarming rate.
There’s a problem here, and it’s as much about the organization as it is about Alessandra Stanley.
Correction of the Week
“An interview purporting to be with Banksy in last Saturday’s Guide (One last thing … , 18 July, page 98, the Guide) was, it transpires, conducted with someone impersonating the graffiti artist. We apologise to Banksy for this error and for any offence and inconvenience caused.” - The Guardian