Monday, September 27, 2004

Duty To Inform

In a letter to the LA Times Sunday Calendar section, a reader notes "Vietnam is relevant because John Kerry volunteered for Vietnam and served two tours of duty on a dangerous Swift Boat." This is incorrect. Kerry served only one tour of duty on a Swift Boat. (And if you believe what the Swift Boat Vets say, there are other errors here.)

I often wonder how newspapers deal with this sort of thing. They're not responsible for others' opinions, but are they responsible for their facts? There's no question if an editor caught a reporter making such a mistake, it'd be corrected. And I would suppose if the fact in question is more outrageous, the paper would react. Imagine, for instance, a letter stating "Senator Kerry frequented prostitutes." I assume, if they bothered to print it, at the very least they'd note to the best of their knowledge, this isn't true.

So what do they do when the facts are wrong, but not so wrong that it's necessarily a big deal?

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I frequently observe and often participate in this process at our paper. We vet to a great degree. If something is libelous, as your one example suggests, it won't go in, obviously, even if there is a defense.

More interestingly, we check facts to a far greater degree than I expected. Probably not as closely as in stories, but close.

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