Some readers have written me about the L.A. Times ethics code, portions of which L.A. Observed published today here. (The entire thing is available for download.)
Readers have especially drawn my attention to this passage:
A fair-minded reader of Times news coverage should not be able to discern the private opinions of those who contributed to that coverage, or to infer that the newspaper is promoting any agenda. A crucial goal of our news and feature reporting – apart from editorials, columns, criticism and other content that is expressly opinionated – is to be nonideological.
Look, I think it’s great that the paper has this as its goal. Whether that goal is being met is another issue entirely, which I discussed recently, here. But it’s a good goal.
As to how the paper meets this and other goals set forth in the ethics code, I leave that to the reader to decide. Occasionally, I think they do a pretty good job. Most days, I think they fall short — as you must know if you read this site on a consistent basis.
But I wish the folks at The Times good luck in their efforts to meet the goals set forth in this ethics code.
On Sunday I published a post titled L.A. Times Needs a Correction for Its Correction of that Story on Corrections. Today the L.A. Times runs that correction, which is its third (and probably final) correction regarding a highly flawed story about elderly prisoners at a California correctional facility:
Elderly prisoners — A correction Saturday for a June 26 Los Angeles Times Magazine article about the increasing number of elderly prisoners in California said that on a third-strike felony sentence of at least 25 years to life, the offender is eligible for parole after serving at least 80% of the sentence. In fact, on a third-strike sentence of 25 years to life, the offender is eligible for parole after serving the minimum sentence of 25 years.
I’m starting to feel sorry for the editors, who almost certainly wish they’d never run this story. So I’ll refrain from making my customary snarky remark about David Shaw’s four experienced Times editors. [No you won’t! — Ed.] The Readers’ Representative tells me that the editors had run their previous correction past people at the state level who should have known the right answer. That was the right way to handle it. It just turns out that their experts at the state level were wrong.
Sentencing issues such as the one that was the subject of this correction are extraordinarily complicated. My suggestion to Times editors would be to triple-check such assertions in the future. (Wait — I forgot: all assertions in the Times are already being checked by four experienced Times editors. So maybe the answer is to quintuple-check them.) [See, I told you! — Ed. Okay, so I took one little shot at David Shaw. So sue me!]