The Quality of the Times

Must contemporary America's quality be so deficient? Must our Times, our leading national paper, be so poor?
Here's a sample from an article about Puerto Rico's insolvency, in my print copy of the National Edition (May 4, 2017):

The action sent Puerto Rico, whose approximately $123 billion in debt and pension obligations far exceeds the $18 billion bankruptcy filed by Detroit in 2013, to uncharted ground. ...
The total includes about $74 billion in bond debt and $49 million in unfunded pension obligations.

The online version has it right: MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, Puerto Rico Declares a Form of Bankruptcy, NYT, MAY 3, 2017 (as of 11:14 AM PDT on May 4).

But when readers hear the inevitable cries of “fake news,” how do they know what to believe?

It comes down to accuracy, to a news organization’s track record of getting even the smallest details right. When typos and misspellings jump off a page, readers are more likely to wonder what else is wrong.

So why would the New York Times want to join the sorry parade of other American newsrooms that have cut out the last, best line of defense against errors: The newsroom copy desk and the eagle-eyed editors who staff it?

“What we now know as the copy desk will no longer exist” is how management’s memo put it last week, words that are still reverberating in the newsroom. Media writers were stunned, too. ...
No newsroom is immune from errors, no matter how many editors go over a story. Human beings make mistakes. But the New York Times’ commitment to avoiding them has always been a point of pride.
Eliminating its public editor position at this time is no small coincidence. The “Paper of Record” clearly does not want someone on its own payroll criticizing them for the numerous errors that will regularly appear in their news reports due to their flawed editing process.
- TNM News, NewsGuild of New York decries the NYT’s announced move to ‘streamline’ editing process, June 5, 2017

Mr. Cosby took Ms. Constandt’s hand and used it to masturbate himself, Ms. Feden she said, and he inserted his fingers into Ms. Constand’sher vagina.

- GRAHAM BOWLEY and RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, In Tears, First Trial Witness Says Cosby Drugged and Assaulted Her, NYT, JUNE 5, 2017

The New York Times offered buyouts to its newsroom employees on Wednesday, aiming to reduce layers of editing and requiring more of the editors who remain. ...
Reducing the layers of editing was one of the primary recommendations in an internal study.... ...
As its digital audience has grown, The Times has focused on publishing articles online quickly, placed an emphasis on visual journalism.... ...
The public editor position was created in 2003 to rebuild trust among readers after the scandal involving Jayson Blair, a Times reporter who was found to have fabricated sources and plagiarized repeatedly. ...
As news spread on Wednesday that The Times had offered buyouts targeted at editors, some readers fretted that coverage would suffer. Most articles at The Times go through at least two or three editors before being published.

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a school for journalism in St. Petersburg, Fla., said that copy editors — who, in addition to editing for grammar, spelling and style, check facts, correct faulty logic and make sense of garbled prose — had frequently been targeted in cost-cutting efforts in newsrooms across the country.

“I think there is a level of scrutiny and quality control that’s kind of disappearing,” Mr. Edmonds said.
- DANIEL VICTOR. New York Times Will Offer Employee Buyouts and Eliminate Public Editor Role, NYT, MAY 31, 2017

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