It should also be noted that neither the Times nor the Environmental Defense Fund overlook Wal-Mart’s contemptible activities. On April 22, the paper ran a long, front-page article about how the company had orchestrated and hushed up “a campaign of bribery to win market dominance” in Mexico. And an exposé of Wal-Mart’s decidedly un-green supply chain in countries like China, which appeared in the March/April issue of Mother Jones, quoted an EDF representative criticizing the company’s operations overseas.
Nonetheless, overlooking the Environmental Defense Fund’s connection to the Walton Family Foundation was a mistake. To her credit, Clifford alerted the corrections department as soon as she learned of the link, but her effort is unlikely to go anywhere.
“The absence of information in the article about the Walton Family Foundation’s giving deprived readers of a fuller understanding of the situation, but it was not an error,” Brisbane, the Times’s public editor, wrote in an email. “The Times does not publish ‘clarifications’ so that is not a step I would expect the paper, given its current policies, to take. I would hope that in the future this aspect of the story would be included.”
The Times’s policy should change. Forbidding clarifications is ludicrous. Appending the online version of Clifford’s article would clearly give readers a more thorough view of Wal-Mart and EDF’s relationship and remind other reporters that in the increasingly complex web of green business and philanthropy, no thread should go untugged.
Update: Following publication of this column, the Times posted a correction on Clifford’s article notifying readers that EDF receives grants from the Walton Family Foundation. The business desk’s corrections editor was on vacation, which is why it took so long, Clifford said.