A surprising number of writing and editing mistakes combined to result in the New York Times publishing an article about Walter Cronkite that contained a whopping seven errors, including incorrect names and dates, among other problems.
When I was in journalism school, we were automatically docked 50% on any assignment that had a name spelled wrong or a date incorrect, since those things are such a huge deal. I once got a failing mark on a story because I’d incorrectly tacked an “e” onto an “Ann.” So for the times to slip up this many times in one piece about a public figure is surprising, to say the least.
Perhaps that’s why their Public Editor has analyzed the situation in an interesting article that you can read here.
Here’s the short version of what happened:
Even a newspaper like The Times, with layers of editing to ensure accuracy, can go off the rails when communication is poor, individuals do not bear down hard enough, and they make assumptions about what others have done. Five editors read the article at different times, but none subjected it to rigorous fact-checking, even after catching two other errors in it. And three editors combined to cause one of the errors themselves.
It’s an interesting study of the editorial process, and what can go wrong.