Decision ’08 notes The Most Painful Correction of All Time: the correction the New York Times has finally run on Paul Krugman’s numerous errors regarding the 2000 election. Editor Gail Collins says:
A classic case of correction run amok involved a column that Paul Krugman wrote on Aug. 19 about the Florida recount in 2000 in which he said that two different news media groups reviewed the ballots and found that “a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore.” That was incorrect. Paul tried to clarify things in his next column, but the public editor, Byron Calame, objected that since nothing in the second column was labeled a correction, the original error would survive in the permanent record.
Paul published a correction in his next column. Unfortunately, the correction was based on information published in The Miami Herald that was wrong and had never been formally fixed. Paul appended another correction to the Web version of his column, but asked if he could refrain from revisiting the subject yet again in print.
I agreed, feeling we had reached the point of cruelty to readers. But I was wrong. The correction should have run in the same newspaper where the original error and all its little offspring had appeared. Here it is:
In describing the results of the ballot study by the group led by The Miami Herald in his column of Aug. 26, Paul Krugman relied on the Herald report, which listed only three hypothetical statewide recounts, two of which went to Al Gore. There was, however, a fourth recount, which would have gone to George W. Bush. In this case, the two stricter-standard recounts went to Mr. Bush. A later study, by a group that included The New York Times, used two methods to count ballots: relying on the judgment of a majority of those examining each ballot, or requiring unanimity. Mr. Gore lost one hypothetical recount on the unanimity basis.
Got that? Getting the facts right is “cruelty to readers.”
But as Tim Worstall notes, the corrections haven’t made it onto Krugman’s columns. [UPDATE: Tim is looking at the Lexis-Nexis versions, while I am looking at the Web versions.] Here are the links, and while it’s amusing that each has a bold notice stating: “Correction Appended,” the corrections (as of this posting) are not today’s correction, but rather earlier and largely incorrect corrections:
- August 26 column
[NOTE: See UPDATE below. It’s there now, in the August 26 column only.]
It’s not right yet, Ms. Collins!
UPDATE 10-2-05 4:54 p.m.: I noticed this morning, while clicking links on the Treo, that the 8/26 column did indeed appear to have the new correction as of 9:45 Pacific time. It clearly has it now. I thought I had checked all three this morning before posting, so I believe that the correction was added in between when I posted and when I checked it again — but I didn’t take a screenshot, and I am not 100 percent certain. It is possible that I simply made a mistake and overlooked it in my haste to get out the door. If I did make a mistake, I want to acknowledge it forthrightly — after all, I’m not Paul Krugman!
This is still pathetic. The two earlier columns that actually dealt with the 2000 election, from August 19 and August 22, both still contain the following language, uncorrected:
Unlike a more definitive study by a larger consortium that included The New York Times, an analysis that showed Al Gore winning all statewide manual recounts, the earlier study showed him winning two out of three.
This language is utterly false, as the new correction makes clear — yet these columns are still running with this false and uncorrected language. Unbelievable! After all this! What’s more, I’ll remind you of the ironic title of the August 22 column, which still contains false and uncorrected facts: “Don’t Prettify Our History.”
Ready to pay that $49.95 a year yet?