Tag Archives: alessandra stanley

Editor&Publisher: Bill Keller says future of NYTimes’ public editor still ‘much debated’

Bill Keller has responded to the New York Times’ public editor’s unflinching critique of errors made in a piece about Walter Cronkite by Alessandra Stanley, as part of a Q&A with James Rainey from the LA Times, published in full on Editor & Publisher.

Keller suggests that the public editor’s position is still ‘much debated’:

[James Rainey]

Q: Has the public editor helped build the Times’ reputation, or done more to knock the paper’s reputation down? It may help to address this question both as it pertains to this particular episode and, more generally, over the brief history of public editorship.

[Bill Keller]

A: On balance, I think the fact that we offer a paycheck and a platform to an independent critic to second-guess our journalistic judgments is good for, pardon the expression, the brand. I don’t always agree with our public editor, but I think he is fair-minded, his reporting is meticulous, and his targets – as in this case – are usually fair game. He doesn’t just blow raspberries. He tries to explain how bad things happen, and he reports what we are trying to do to avoid future mistakes. Whether a public editor should be a permanent, or at least continuing, fixture at The Times is a question much debated within our walls. I’ve kicked it down the road until we near the end of Clark’s term next year.


Journalism.co.uk is aware of full-time newspaper ombudsmen at the Guardian [Siobhain Butterworth] and the Observer [Stephen Pritchard] and yesterday learned that Sally Baker is feedback editor for the Times. Does anyone know of any other UK titles with full-time and independent readers’ editors? And do those without one need one?

The NYT’s Cronkite mistakes and the paper’s ‘top 20’ error rate list

The New York Times’ public editor’s column (August 1) is quite extraordinary in the way it details the mistakes in New York Times’ coverage following Walter Cronkite’s death, a point Steven A. Smith makes here in a blog post.

Not least as it gives quite an insight into NYTimes’ newroom process, including reference to this list: ‘the top 20 among reporters and editors most responsible for corrections this year’.

“For all her skills as a critic, [Alessandra] Stanley was the cause of so many corrections in 2005 that she was assigned a single copy editor responsible for checking her facts. Her error rate dropped precipitously and stayed down after the editor was promoted and the arrangement was discontinued. Until the Cronkite errors, she was not even in the top 20 among reporters and editors most responsible for corrections this year. Now, she has jumped to No. 4 and will again get special editing attention.”

The Guardian (one of the two few UK newspapers to have its own ombudsman, or readers’ editor) picks up the corrections here on its MediaMonkey blog:  “If there is a record for the most number of corrections to a single newspaper article, then it may just have changed hands.”

We wonder what Walter Cronkite, renowned for his careful reporting, would have made of all this… Last month in a Q&A with users on WashingtonPost.com, his former chief of staff, Marlene Adler said:

“As a newspaper man and a TV reporter, speed and accuracy were what it was all about. Getting the facts, getting them right and getting the story out first, whenever possible. He didn’t like to be scooped by another network or print reporter. However, he would not release a story, even if it meant being second, if he could not authenticate his sources.”