Patterico's Pontifications

7/25/2005

Readers’ Rep Responds Again Re “White Men” Whiteout

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary — Patterico @ 7:17 am



The L.A. Times‘s Readers’ Representative, Jamie Gold, has corresponded with me further regarding the white-out of the word “white” from the phrase “white men” in an article about Bush’s search for a Supreme Court nominee. (Previous posts here and here.)

There appears to be no real change from the last time she wrote me. She still says that the “white men” phrase wasn’t a mistake, and that it wasn’t changed because someone thought it was wrong. But she still has no answer on why it did happen. And it doesn’t appear that the answer will be forthcoming.

To understand her most recent response, it will be helpful to remind you of her initial e-mail to me, and to see my response to that.

Her initial e-mail, which I quoted in full in this post, said that reporter David Savage wrote the phrase “white men” and meant it. Apparently, his information had been that the finalists were Judges Luttig, Roberts, Wilkinson, and McConnell. But, Ms. Gold explained:

Somewhere in the editing process, the names were dropped — then the “white men” reference — but it was not taken out because it was wrong.

However, she said, she was “still trying to track down the reason as to why it was edited.”

I sent her this note in response:

I am still interested to hear the reason that the change was made. I assume there was a reason; it seems like a curious change to make for no reason.

And now, her latest note, which responds to that. She seems a bit annoyed:

Yes, there are a lot of “curious changes” made to a lot of stories that a lot of reporters and editors would like to know about before they are made (witness the “ultraconservative” correction that ran last week on a review). It’s part of the sausage-making here. In this case, the main issue is that the story wasn’t changed because the reporter or his editor thought it was wrong. One of your fans has written back three or four times to say that I’m lying, I and everyone here know that someone changed it because it was in error, and this paper just doesn’t want to admit it. The truth is that Savage’s reporting showed that there were the four finalists. An editor in the backfield should have asked him to be certain he had meant to write that before he (or she) must have erred on the side of caution and changed it without checking. (By the way, I meant to write “Roberts,” of course, not “Robertson” in my note back to you.)

I have a couple of points to make here.

First: folks, when you write anyone at the paper, please be polite. Don’t accuse them of “lying” right out of the gate. Courtesy enhances your credibility. Enough said.

Second, we still don’t know the reason the story was changed. In both her initial response and her latest note, Ms. Gold has insisted that the “white” portion of the “white men” reference was not removed because someone thought it was wrong. Yet she doesn’t seem to know the reason that it was removed — and it doesn’t sound like we’re going to find out. The best we get is supposition: an editor “must have erred on the side of caution and changed it without checking.”

Reading this charitably, it sounds like maybe the editor didn’t think it was wrong — but he wasn’t so sure it was right, either.

As set forth in previous posts, the argument that the “white men” comment requires no correction rests entirely on Savage’s reporting — which cited no sources (even anonymous ones) and which contradicted numerous other contemporaneous accounts. Until I’m told the reason for the change, I’ll continue to believe that the change appears to have been made by an editor who (perhaps because he or she had followed the story in other publications) wasn’t sure Savage was right. Ms. Gold seems to acknowledge as much in her penultimate sentence, which speculates on the reason for the editorial change.

The removal of the word “white” still strikes me as a whiteout.

3 Responses to “Readers’ Rep Responds Again Re “White Men” Whiteout”

  1. Probably removed by some website employee because s/he thought it was politically incorrect.

    Kevin Murphy (9982dd)

  2. I was the fan who wrote back a few times to her.

    I want to make something very, very clear. I did NOT say she was lying, she was the one who brought that word into the mix.

    I am prepared to send to anyone who asks the FULL email exchange she and I had to make it absolutely clear I never said anyone was “lying”.

    J. Stuart (79f50b)

  3. Sure, send it to me. patterico AT patterico DOT com.

    Patterico (3606ad)


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