Friday, March 05, 2004
Not a complete answer, but it'll have to do: New York Times Public Editor, responding to e-mail criticisms of an incident last month where a quote was recycled and the individuals party affiliation changed, has addressed the issue on his blog-type thingy.
Birds hit with this single stone included the acknowledgment that both quotes came from one interview; that the two articles were about two different subjects (the Feb. 22 piece concerned Republicans disenchanted with President Bush); and the implicit presumption that there was nothing wrong with this efficient recycling.
I would have liked to have seen a less artful and more complete mea culpa. The subject of the correction was Mr. Meagher's political affiliation, but the larger issues were the propriety of using the same quote twice; using it in two different contexts; using it in two different versions (look at the phrases preceding "when I think about 500 people killed" ); and, most of all, not addressing the appropriateness of a single one of these points.
This was a correction written on the head of the pin. Readers have reason to expect The Times to be a little less defensive, a little more forthcoming, and a little more reflective.
At the time, I noted that man-on-the-street interviews aren't the type you recycle repeatedly. Okrent notes that the Times editors seem unconcerned with the reuse of the quote. Okrent doesn't take a position on that practice, though the way he phrases his response, I suspect that he disapproves.