Fictoid #6:
New York Times “Corrections”

On Sunday, January 20, 2002, in the Week in Review section, the New York Times ran a long, self-congratulatory piece about its Department of Corrections. The piece stated “The New York Times makes mistakes, great and small, and goes to great lengths to correct them.”

There is no doubt that the Times goes to great lengths to correct “small” mistakes, such as misspellings of names, misidentified positions in photographs and incorrect ages of deceased persons in obituaries. But, as Renata Adler cogently argues in her new book, Canaries In the Mineshaft, no such effort is made with more substantive errors. “The trivial, as it often happens truly comic corrections, persist in quantity. The deep and consequential errors, inevitable in any enterprise, particularly those with deadlines, go unacknowledged.” Through this omission, she concludes, “The Times conceals not just every important error it makes but that it makes errors at all.” If the Times does not correct substantive errors, its “correction” claim is a fictoid.

The opportunity to resolve this issue came when the Times published a story on its Op ed page on January 2, 2002 by Tom Mangold about James Jesus Angleton in 1964. It stated Angleton had violated the constitutional rights of Yuri Nosenko, a Soviet defector from the KGB, by having him "arrested and thrown into solitary confinement." The story was demonstrably untrue: Angleton did not order the arrest, imprisonment or hostile interrogation of Yuri Nosenko, nor did he, or his counterintelligence staff, even have jurisdiction over the Nosenko case, which was the exclusive responsibility of the CIA’s Soviet Russia Division— an entirely different part of the CIA. The individuals who did participate in the decision all described their role in sworn testimony to the Rockefeller Commission and House Select Committee on Intelligence. Even by Tom Mangold's own prior account in his book Cold Warrior (page 189), the story in the New York Times is untrue.

Although the editor was informed that the story was false history, the Times published no correction. Adler thus is correct that the claim the Times corrects all errors “great and small” is a fictoid.


 Any further examples of uncorrected fictoids?

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