There’s been quite an uproar in the blogosphere over the NY Times’ refusal to correct their columnists. The Times has now decided to make some changes.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who would have made an excellent editorial page editor if he could have put up with the meetings, once said that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Gail Collins’s determination that corrections will appear on their own at the end of a succeeding column, and not disappear into an unrelated digression, is on its own a significant piece of progress. But it’s her assertion of responsibility that matters most. Critics might say her statement of policy is very gently phrased, but when I asked her if there was wiggle room, she was unequivocal: “It is my obligation to make sure no misstatements of fact on the editorial pages go uncorrected.”
In the coming months I expect columnist corrections to become a little more frequent and a lot more forthright than they’ve been in the past. Yet the final measure of Collins’s success, and of the individual columnists, will be not in the corrections but in the absence of the need for them. Wayne Wren of Houston, a self-described conservative and “avid reader” of National Review Online, expressed it with great equanimity in a recent e-mail message to my office: “If Mr. Krugman is making egregious errors in his Op-Ed column, they will catch up with him.” Same goes for Brooks, Dowd, Friedman, Herbert, Kristof and Safire – and, most important, for The New York Times.