Day Eight of Stengel-gate: Why Was Richard Stengel Presented as an Expert on the Constitution on NPR?
[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
To give a quick review, on June 23, Richard Stengel wrote a cover story* for Time magazine rife with factual errors. Eight days ago, I published a piece here outlining thirteen of those errors in that story. The next day, I published a substantially similar piece at Big Journalism, and by then the list of errors had grown to fourteen. I said at the time that I considered it a journalistic scandal that such an error-ridden piece appeared at Time magazine as its cover story and ever since I have been crusading to more or less embarrass them into a correction.
Surely they know by now what an embarrassment that article was; some of them probably knew before the article even went to print. This is reaching the point where I think it is safe to say that their reaction—or lack thereof—is becoming as much of a problem as the initial mistake. It’s one thing to make the mistake in the first place but to leave it uncorrected as word gets around that Time published such inaccurate garbage only deepens the embarrassment. Time has already harmed its reputation by publishing the piece in the first place; now the only question is whether they can salvage their reputation by admitting finally they made an error.
But truthfully I understand that for the staff at Time, this puts them in an awful position. He is the Managing Editor, after all. How do you go to your boss and tell him that he is not only wrong, but incompetently, embarrassingly wrong, on a subject that he claims to be an expert on? (And if you think that characterization is hyperbole, I suggest you read this piece and decide or yourself.) They do need to confront, but on a human level you can understand why they are hesitant to do so. He is their boss, after all.
But that raises the question… what is NPR’s excuse? Here is a blurp for a show entitled Talk of the Nation that aired on July 4:
In the fierce debates over health care, Libya, debt, gay marriage and other issues, Americans have been getting a lecture on the meaning of the Constitution and the intentions of its authors. Andrea Seabrook speaks with Richard Stengel of Time magazine and Yale law professor Akhil Amar about the political divide over the Constitution and how an 18th-century document applies in a 21st-century world.