Reviews | Taylor Lorenz said an editor was to blame. Is it OK?

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Washington Post writer Taylor Lorenz posted a Twitter thread on Saturday stating that she was not the one who inserted the error line in his article. It was his editor. “I didn’t write the line and didn’t know it was inserted”, wrote Lorenz.

“This should have been a small correction for miscommunication, but it turned into a multi-day media cycle, intentionally aimed at discrediting the Washington Post and me.”

A takeaway from Lorenz’s thread was unequivocal: “In a series of tweets, Lorenz blames her editor for inserting the error into her story and says she is the victim of a ‘bad faith’ campaign. “. tweeted CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy.

Blaming editors for mistakes sounds like a cowardly act, and indeed it can be. But it also happens occasionally in mainstream US media. Lorenz’s point you culpa however, presents a derogation from the principles set out by the organization. And in this case, he received approval from the Post’s masthead, according to a source at the newspaper. A Post spokesperson said, “We have provided information that we have asked him to consider.”

The imbroglio began a week ago with the publication of Lorenz’s article about internet content creators who thrived on the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard libel lawsuit. The original release said two creators — Alyte Mazeika and the anonymous ThatUmbrellaGuy — had been contacted for comment. reported that the newspaper removed this claim with a stealth edit. The Post published a series of corrections and an editor’s note attempting to remedy the situation. It now reads:


The first published version of this story incorrectly stated that internet influencers Alyte Mazeika and ThatUmbrellaGuy had been contacted for comment prior to publication. In fact, only Mazeika was solicited, via Instagram. After the story was published, The Post continued to seek comments from Mazeika via social media and interviewed ThatUmbrellaGuy for the first time. During this process, The Post removed the incorrect reporting from the story but did not note its removal, a violation of our corrections policy. The story has been updated to note that Mazeika declined to comment for this story and ThatUmbrellaGuy could not be reached for comment.

An earlier version of this story also incorrectly attributed a quote to Adam Waldman, a lawyer for Johnny Depp. The quote describes how he contacted some internet influencers and was deleted.

Hot Air’s John Sexton pointed out that according to Lorenz’s own account, she did not contact any YouTubers for comment before the story was uploaded – a circumstance that conflicts with the editor’s note, and which indicates that the request for comment to Mazeika occurred before publication via Instagram.

We’ve asked The Post for clarification on this point, because it’s important: if The Post can’t state the facts in an editor’s note, what else should we trust it to do? “It remains as is,” a Post spokesperson said. “We will not be able to enter into internal discussions.”

Another question that looms over the editor’s note concerns politics. What if the first iteration had claimed that the error came from an editor’s keyboard? Such a statement would go against a long-standing provision of The Post’s standards guide, which reads: “We do not assign blame to individual journalists or editors (for example” due to ‘a reporting error’ or ‘due to an editing error’). (Telegraph Services, People Quoted, etc.) The policy controls how the newspaper articulates editor’s corrections and notes, and has a more tenuous influence over the Post’s tweets and other statements.

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In a 2006 column, then-ombudsman Deborah Howell traced the philosophical roots of the Post’s aversion to “due to an editing error.” Then-editor Len Downie told Howell, “Journalists get bylines and awards when they’re successful, and editors don’t.” Peter Baker, then White House correspondent for the Post, countered: “The writers are held accountable because our names are on the lines. Why should writers be held accountable when it’s not their fault? »

Correct, says the New York Times. Readers close to this newspaper know that general-purpose journalist Christine Chung made not trashing the status of Lincoln College in Illinois, which is a predominantly black college, not a historically black college, as its May 9 article originally reported. This is because a correction directly addresses the source of the error: “Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Lincoln College as a historically black college. It is a predominantly black college, not an HBCU listed by the Department of Education”

Philip B. Corbett, associate editor for standards at The Times, told the Erik Wemple blog via email: “[T]This has long been our usual practice. It’s simply an effort to be fair to reporters — whose names appear on the story — and protect them from criticism if they weren’t responsible for an error.

Many outlets including CNN, The Associated Press, USA Today, Slate, MSNBCthe daily beast – and, yes, even the post office! — have at least tried that wording (although a CNN spokeswoman notes that it is not policy to attribute errors to editors, and an AP spokeswoman writes via email: “ Corrections usually focus on what is corrected”).

Decades ago, the Post’s institutional approach to corrections made more sense. Journalists’ work at the time was not stolen from social media sites, dissected for errors, and repurposed for the next case of wrongdoing or alleged wrongdoing. These days it is. If The Post’s policy argument was ever correct, it is no longer the case.

And if The Post revises its corrections policy, it might want to establish a guideline or two on how its reporters respond to social media hubbub. “We have a responsibility to recognize these bad faith campaigns for what they are and when this stuff does and does not deserve recognition,” Lorenz wrote after the outcry over his Depp-Heard article. She also rapped on CNN, “This type of coverage is so irresponsible and dangerous,” Lorenz wrote on Twitter. “This is twisting my words to amplify a fabricated outrage campaign by right-wing media outlets and radicalized influencers, who are waging a vicious campaign of harassment/vilification against me. CNN is happily piling up.

This outrage works much better when a 135-word editor’s note isn’t hanging over your article.

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