Times Of Honesty

The best feature in The New York Times, when the feature runs, is an Editors’ Note. The Times runs Corrections almost every day, but an Editors’ Note is different and less frequent, because it means the paper really messed up and has some explaining to do. The notes are wonderful to read, not so much for the schadenfreude value (though one cannot discount that), but because they are curious labors of honesty that show the limits to the amount of humbling and confession that any proud institution can undergo in a day. The Editors’ Note today (you need to scroll down the page a bit, past the Corrections, which are a fine read) relates to a March 19 obituary of golfer Paul Runyan, in which a number of quotes obtained from other publications ran in the Times without credit to the original sources. (For more on this problem, ask Doris Kearns Goodwin or Stephen Ambrose.) The Times very conscientiously lists each of the quotes it purloined and the publications from which it purloined them. Bravo. Left unsaid is how or why the quotes ran without attribution, and what’s going to happen to the poor sod responsible for the offense. But I don’t mind the omissions, which reaffirm just how human the Times is, striving for total honesty yet falling short, as many people do.

Author: Peter Maass

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. In 1983, after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, I went to Brussels as a copy editor for The Wall Street Journal/Europe. I left the Journal in 1985 to write for The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, covering NATO and the European Union. In 1987 I moved to Seoul, South Korea, where I wrote primarily for The Washington Post. After three years in Asia I moved to Budapest to cover Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I spent most of 1992 and 1993 covering the war in Bosnia for the Post.