Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times Airbrushes Web Version of Article to Fix a Substantive Error Without Issuing Correction

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 6:41 pm

The recently issued L.A. Times ethics code states: “When we make mistakes, we quickly and forthrightly correct the record.” (My emphasis.) Yet the paper has just surreptitiously fixed a substantive error in the Web version of an article — without acknowledging the error that ran in the print version.

Yesterday, I read a front-page L.A. Times story on Chief Justice Rehnquist’s announcement that he is not retiring. The article had the following false assertion (the sentence in bold type), smack-dab on Page A1:

Until July 1, the president and his aides expected that Rehnquist’s would be the seat they would have to fill.

They thought Rehnquist’s illness would force his retirement, and they intended to move quickly to replace the conservative chief justice with a reliably conservative federal appeals court judge. The leading candidates were all white men.

But when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement, the White House was forced to switch gears. The president and his legal advisors broadened their search to consider several women on the federal bench. They also spoke of taking several weeks to make a decision.

Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, 49, vaulted back to the top of the list because his nomination, like O’Connor’s in 1981, would be a breakthrough. President Reagan made history by naming the first woman to the Supreme Court, and Bush would like to do the same by appointing the first Latino.

So, according to The Times, Bush was considering only “white men” when he believed he’d be replacing Rehnquist. Only after O’Connor retired did he give serious consideration to minorities such as Alberto Gonzales.

This is an entirely fictional account, as anyone who has been following the process well knows. Justice O’Connor announced her retirement on July 1. Numerous reports in late June, including reports crediting White House sources, reported that Latino and women candidates were rumored to be on President Bush’s short list.

For example, a June 18 AP article named Emilio Garza as one of six candidates on Bush’s short list. The article also named Edith Jones, Alberto Gonzales, and Miguel Estrada as “plausible picks.” A June 19 Washington Post article and a June 22 Chicago Tribune article both listed Gonzales as among the top contenders, citing anonymous sources close to (or working at) the White House. And, of course, the well-connected Bill Kristol famously predicted on June 22 that O’Connor would be the first retirement, and that Gonzales would be nominated to take her spot.

Thus, available evidence suggests that the L.A. Times‘s front-page claim that “[t]he leading candidates were all white men” was incorrect.

Here’s where things get interesting. The paper has issued no correction of this error. However, if you click on the link for yesterday’s front-page story, you’ll see that the “white men” claim has been altered to remove the word “white”:

They thought Rehnquist’s illness would force his retirement, and they intended to move quickly to replace the conservative chief justice with a reliably conservative federal appeals court judge. The leading candidates were all men.

That is not what the print version said. The print version said that the leading candidates were all “white men,” not simply “men.” But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a shot of the relevant portion of yesterday’s front page:

What’s going on here? Why was the word “white” removed from the online version of this article? Did someone realize that the assertion was incorrect, and have the word airbrushed from the Web version? It’s hard to imagine any other explanation.

This hardly seems consistent with the claim made in the recently issued ethics code: “When we make mistakes, we quickly and forthrightly correct the record.” There’s nothing “forthright” about this at all. The word that comes to mind is “sneaky.”

I’m writing the Readers’ Representative about this. I’ll let you know what I hear back.

UPDATE: Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the link. I hope any new readers will bookmark the main page and return often.

UPDATE x2: Welcome to Power Line readers, and thanks to John for the link.

UPDATE x3: The Readers’ Representative has partially responded. Details in this post.

54 Responses to “L.A. Times Airbrushes Web Version of Article to Fix a Substantive Error Without Issuing Correction”

  1. Ah, Patterico, you merely reveal how foolish all the bloggers are. You do not realize that it takes four editors to remove the word “white,” at the rate of 1.25 editors per word. The rampant stupidity of the lamestream media never fails to astound me–they are unable to internalize the fact that the covers have been removed from their infernal machine.

    John Cunningham (b43026)

  2. Weekly Jackass Number Thirty-Five: Juan Cole

    …if the professor thing doesn’t work out for Juan, he could always get a job at the L.A. Times (hat tip to Michelle Malkin)…

    Decision '08 (59ce3a)

  3. patrick you are like a mad dog with the Times clenched in your teeth, every day.

    its your best feature. keep it up.

    cali white bear (66f488)

  4. […] Here’s the leading entry in this year’s competition from Patterico, called “white men“: […]

    Dinocrat » Blog Archive » The first 2005 “Christmas in Cambodia” Award nominee (ea6a9d)

  5. Actually, the LA Slimes is still wrong. Not all leading candidates were men. Here’s the correct way to run this sentence: The leading candidates were all human beings.

    Jabba the Tutt (6ce113)

  6. I was still hoping for Mr. Ed.

    Angry Clam (f05866)

  7. Actually, the real test is whether the run a correction.

    If I want to give the Times the benefit of the doubt, the editor may have made the change but it never got changed, and they decided to fix the online version to limit the mistake. Would you have them post something they knew was wrong?

    But again, the real test is if they run a correction. Especially when the corrected text is also wrong.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  8. Jabba —

    The correct way is to drop the sentence.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  9. Los Angeles Times: All the White Men

    Patterico busts up the Los Angeles Times Again, L.A. Times Airbrushes Web Version of Article to Fix a Substantive Error Without Issuing Correction.
    The recently issued L.A. Times ethics code states: “When we make mistakes, we quickly and forthrig…

    FullosseousFlap's Dental Blog (baa0b4)

  10. Jabba, that’s not being fair. All the leading candidates had more in common than merely being human beings. For one thing, they were all adult U.S. citizens. For another, they all probably didn’t vote for John F. Kerry last November. And I’ll bet they’re all past or present judges (IIRC, Rehnquist wasn’t).

    Xrlq (158f18)

  11. Maybe there needs to be a change in the way changes are made – The original comment stays and it is marked and then linked to a revision or correction.

    Davod (51e146)

  12. Xrlq (spells mom and dad?),

    Rehnquist was a tertiary-or-below DOJ dude. Hunter Thompson, for what it’s worth, casually refers to him as “swine” from the get-go.

    He was the first post-Buckley conservative/libertarian, and how they hated him.

    A useful gauge of how far the left has sunk will be the degree to which they celebrate his retirement/death (which apparently won’t be separated by much).

    Knemon (2a8a0d)

  13. (Obviously, the first such con/libert *at high judicial level*)

    Knemon (2a8a0d)

  14. It bears repeating. To use “ethics” in the same sentence with Times(either) is not right. Has not been right for decades.

    Rod Stanton (7b6143)

  15. I find the besieged media sad almost to the point of being laughable. Every day, some new absurd incident is blasted over the blogs. The female saying the “BS” comment is a good case study. Yet, you can still hear these same people loudly claim that there is NO media bias; but if there IS one, it is definitely conservative. Riiight. An all-consuming, passionate, illogical hatred of Bush/Rove makes you a conservative in the newsrooms of America, I guess. I’d hate to hear from the liberals if these are the conservatives. Makes you wonder what planet these people come from, or what narcotic they’re abusing.

    JP (ce92bb)

  16. Great catch, Patterico! A glimspe into the soul of the problem at the LA Times!

    Let’s face it, this is RACISM, anyway you slice it, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit.

    The MSM is willfully ignorant of the true nature of the Bush Adminsitration; their perverted imaginations are so busy changing the meanings of the President’s quotes, they miss the world moving by.

    Emma Morrow (4c8fb7)

  17. Patterico,

    This is rediculous. They merely ran out of white-out!

    bucktowndusty (f0ce58)

  18. oops. Did I misspell? I’ll correct that “forthrightly”.

    bucktowndusty (f0ce58)

  19. Ok, good catch and slam but aren’t we missing something…according to the original post the Bush admin was originally looking at men and women. So their


    still falls into the realm of lying.

    Tim (690ff7)

  20. I notice the LAT’s airbrush accomplished only a partial fix. Still uncorrected is the assertion that the White House had only men on the short list. That too is false, as your examples showed.

    Bill Dunne (13a7a4)

  21. It just shows they read the blogs, which they disparage so virulently.

    I also think they’re “reaching out” to all the non-white residents of LA or Orange County by constantly framing stories with an anti-white flavor.

    Patricia (133563)

  22. What’s the fuss? Don’t you know that conservative blacks are not really black, conservative Hispanics are not really Hispanics, and conservative women are not really women? Therefore, only ‘white’ ‘men’ were considered, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

    Dr. T (dab7bd)

  23. In this context, the country can be divided into two groups: The ones who believe that the LA Times and New York Times have some credibility left, and those that don’t. From all evidence, a good percentage of those that do work at these papers, or elsewhere in the MSM.

    And for them, it’s got to be getting more lonely by the day.

    GartS (39e13c)

  24. MSM Lie # 33 – L.A. Times, David G. Savage and “wh

    has yet to acknowledge the original “error.”

    This is a two-for-one lie – the print lie and the online airbrushing.

    Is it any wonder that race relations in this country have reached their present state?
    . . . . .
    This is L.A. Times’ four…

    The Cassandra Page (59ce3a)

  25. This one is #33 on the list of MSM lies of 2005. This one is the Times’ fourth contribution to the list this year.

    salt1907 (52c9ef)

  26. Row, row, row-(yer)-back.
    Nice catch, Patterico. Documented beautifully.

    Um–y’know, this rowback crap strikes me as an obvious violation of the ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalists. Check it out:

    Like, this tenet, in particular:
    Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.

    Which is in the section headed, “Be Accountable.”

    Doc (7555bb)

  27. I have made a correction to my post. Note to L.A. Times – this is how to make a correction – 1) acknowledge the error (or in your case – the racially charged lie), 2) make the correction, 3) apologize.

    salt1907 (52c9ef)

  28. But aren’t Hispanics white (caucasian)?

    Mark (f30c35)

  29. Nuclear Age

    Today’s dose of NIF – News, Interesting & Funny … Not-So-Limited Blogation Weekend!

    NIF (59ce3a)

  30. […] That seems to be the new policy at the LA Times. Patterico has the story and you’ll want to check back to see if the LA Times answers him…and what they make as their excuse. […]

    The Anchoress » We will correct ourselves promptly…but admitting nothing (a936fc)

  31. Patterico, you will love this plot-thickener – here is a July 2 LA Times story, still on-line, which (I will argue) provided some hapless reporter’s basis for the recent story:

    WASHINGTON — Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court and its decisive voice on such critical issues as abortion, affirmative action and religion, announced Friday that she was retiring.

    [Big Skip] .. The White House counsel’s office, charged with finding candidates for an expected vacancy, had to switch gears Friday.

    The list of leading contenders to succeed Rehnquist contained mostly white men with conservative judicial records. Judges J. Michael Luttig and J. Harvie Wilkinson III from Virginia and John G. Roberts Jr. from Washington topped the list, officials said.

    But the departure of the court’s first woman rejiggers the political calculation, several lawyers said. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales and Judge Edith Brown Clement, a Bush appointee to the U.S. appeals court in New Orleans, were now seen as serious contenders.

    One might further argue that, as of July 2, “mostly white men” was accurate. Looks the the LA Times got lost in translation.

    Tom Maguire (3f7e6c)

  32. Apparently the LA Times is now the first newspaper to use White Out on the web. 🙂

    Good catch; outstanding documentation. Kudos to Patterico’s.

    DaMav (beaa22)

  33. […] As if we needed to tell you of course. But this is a truly heinous example. […]

    Save The GOP » Bias at the LA Times (e9e7b9)

  34. Actually, I was watching FNS this morning, and Kristol predicted that either Edith Jones or… um.. somebody else (memory lapse) would be nominated. He didn’t mention Gonzo.

    Strangely, the woman from the Boston Globe and Juan Williams both picked Gonzo for the court.

    Nethicus (66cc11)

  35. Very nice. I’ve been down on the LAT the last week myself and linked back here today.

    Curtis G. (665390)

  36. Of course they got it wrong. The MSM no longer checks primary source documents. They instead create a body of rhetoric that is loosely based on fact and highly charged by their own political agendas. They then repeat the rhetoric so frequently that it is adopted as the “truth.” Once the rhetoric reaches the “truth” stage, they then add to the body of rhetoric and quote their “truth” as evidence.

    Anyone who went to college knows 98.999% of journalists are liberals. They claim there is no bias. For Pete’s sake, they all seem to forget we sat next to them in class, drank with them in bars, and lived next door to them every day.

    Dr. Foo (840726)

  37. Think this blog is terrific. One small note rgearding the defintiion of Hispanic as white (caucasian). This is one of those terms that is political rather than “real”. One can be a member of any race and be Hispanic which really comes down to a speaker of Spanish.. or ‘culturally Spanish’. The Hispanic nations have always consisted of a indian, white, black and mixed race members. There are also small but singifcant minorities of asian (Oriental as opposed to Indian or Pakistani) and middle-eastern Hispanics in Central and South America. By this classic definition, many US people whose last names are Spanish in origin are not Hispanic as they do not speak Spanish and their cultural Spanishness is confined to popular culture (something that would make a million buyers of Julio Iglesias or Gypsy Kings records, who might be Sewish or Tibetan, qualify as Hispanics. But politically the definition blurs – and even the census does this….It’s one of my pet peeves as this hispanic person who speaks fluent spanish but who’s last name is obviously anglo has come across so little effort to clarify and correct this.

    Viva español (cc1412)

  38. That is such a minor change, they made a mistake and fixed it on the online version, big deal. Some people really have too much time on their hands.

    Get Real (590dbc)

  39. salt1907, great work on the Lies of 2005. Mind if I link you?

    Dr. Foo, my brother is one of the 1.001% of journalists who are conservative. Now, I’m sure the percentage of conservative journalism students at Texas A&M is a little higher than the norm. But we’re very proud of him.

    otcconan (d9844d)

  40. Q: How do you know when the LA Times has been using your computer?

    A: White-out on the screen!

    Mike D in SC (31e447)

  41. With all the mixed race people around, you’d think we would have moved beyond all these black and white labels. The racially charged Los Angeles Times articles lose some punch when they have to refer to people as individuals, so expect them to continue ignoring mixed race people.

    Shredstar (91b3b2)

  42. A quote from Reuters today:

    “The list of potential nominees with close ties to Bush include Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is Hispanic. Another contender is former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson, who is black.”

    Perhaps the LA Times isn’t really in the know. Hee hee.

    lyndi (0d441f)

  43. Los Angeles Times would write that line this way, to demonstrate their enhanced compassion:
    “The list of potential nominees with close ties to Bush includes a Hispanic, who is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Another contender is a black, who is former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson.”

    Shredstar (91b3b2)

  44. Re the link to the CNN Audio from Lou Dobbs’ program: Next time you are linking to a blog that has more close ups of thongs than text, please supply a FARKish “Not work safe” warning, willya? I work for a politically correct company that blocks my FavoRite news forum, and they haven’t gotten wise to blogs yet. I don’t wanna to (at worst) get fired or (at least) get all blogs banned. Those of us who don’t have a problem working for a living don’t want to give others the impression we are jerking instead of working.

    L.N. Smithee (278a65)

  45. The ombudsman for L.N. Smithee has released this statement:

    L.N. Smithee, in a post immediately above this statement, implied that Patterico supplied the link in post #3 on this page. That was in error. The person who provided the UNSAFE FOR WORK link to was the culprit, not Patterico.
    L.N. Smithee regrets the error. And he says so, because even though he is not a professional journalist, he has higher standards than the Los Angeles Times.

    L.N. Smithee (278a65)

  46. Sorry. I have removed the comment.

    And to the guy with the satire.myblogsite web site: consider yourself warned. At a minimum, your links should 1) relate to the post and 2) not offend my readers. If there are future comments violating either 1) or 2) then I may have to ban you.

    Patterico (756436)

  47. […] This sort of thing keeps happening. I don’t know why anybody regards the “major” newspapers has having any credibility. Here’s the latest example, in which the Los Angeles Times mdae a gross factual error in the print edition, then changed the web version and neglected to issue a correction. Patterico has a scan of print edition. […]

    Different River » Credibility Gap (aa0583)

  48. […] Keeping this faupau in mind, once in a great while the Los Angeles Times lays out some info worth reading and contemplating. In Sunday’s edition, it was a long investigative story on China’s world-wide actions to acquire access to oil reserves. To secure deals worth tens of billions of dollars, Beijing is cozying up to regimes in nations, including Iran and Sudan, that Washington labels pariahs. And it is flexing its military muscle to lay claim to contested fields in East Asia. […]

    OKIE on the LAM™ - In LA » Chinese Dragon — Patient Adversary Gnashes Teeth, Flexes Claws (e2cef7)

  49. […] UPDATE 2 10:18 p.m. central: On the other hand, if the professor thing doesn’t work out for Juan, he could always get a job at the L.A. Times (hat tip to Michelle Malkin)… […]

    Decision ‘08 » Blog Archive » Weekly Jackass Number Thirty-Five: Juan Cole (1b383c)

  50. […] It’s Still A Correction if We Don’t Admit An Error: The Los Angeles Times Tries to Fool Readers The Los Angeles Times screwed up a front-page story about Supreme Court nominees. It quietly fixed the error on the Web edition, but never ran a correction. Patterico, whose daily monitoring of what he calls the “Los Angeles Dog Trainer,” corrected it for them. So much for the paper’s ethics code policy of “…quickly and forthrightly” correcting errors. […] » The July Mapes Awards (e203ab)

  51. Nice site actually. Gone to my favourites. Thanks for creation.

    jack (da7b8e)

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