by John Hinderaker

I enjoy reading the Corrections section of the New York Times. The paper's corrections are revealing in several ways. Often, they reveal a remarkable ignorance of subjects like arithmetic, science, history and literature on the part of the paper's reporters and editors. They also allow us to deduce the law that governs the Times's willingness to correct its mistakes: the Times corrects errors with an alacrity that is inversely proportional to the significance of the error. Thus, if the error weakens a liberal case the paper was trying to make, getting the paper to correct it is like pulling teeth. We have succeeded in forcing the Times to correct on a couple of occasions, but in other instances they have refused even when it is obvious that what they reported was false.

On the other hand, if the Times's mistake was utterly trivial — for example, if the society section makes a mistake on where the best man went to high school — corrections are easy to obtain. Yesterday's Corrections section included a correction that may approach the record for both triviality and weirdness. It related to a photograph in an article on cat wrangling:

Because of an editing error, a caption on Saturday with an article about the service Catch Your Cat, Etc., a for-hire pet-cat catcher, described incorrectly a picture of the cat Vivian Grant hiding behind a sofa. It was taken after she had been corralled and released, not before.

Whew! Glad they cleared that up. Here, if you are curious, is the photo:

When the Times makes corrections of such triviality, the unspoken implication is that everything else in the paper that day was right. The howlers in columns by Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman and in the paper's editorials, and the errors and biases that infect the paper's news stories, are all swept away: the only thing we got wrong, the Times tells us, was the timing of the photo of Vivian, the wrangled cat. Imagine how much better a paper the Times would be if only that were true.


Editor's Addendum

Most comments to this article were indignant and more or (mostly) less to the point. They were entirely humorless. In contrast, a reader, Brian Hoffmann, used Al Gore's baseless claim that he invented the Internet to make us chuckle. Have Liberals and Conservatives switched personalities? The Conservatives seem to have developed the sense of humor that once was a hallmark of the Liberals. Hoffmann remarked:

NYT ceased being a real news source a very long time ago. Just think, Had Al Gore never invented the internet for us peons and serfs, we would still be thinking without question that they are "the source" for news... Now there is some irony for ya.

Admittedly, when I read the comment by David Wegman, I thought it more right-wing sarcasm, but apparently it's straight from the left. Wegman writes:

Steve Jones, what you don't realize is that the media doesn't go after Obama because they don't subscribe to the ultra-right wing, conservative ideology. The right attacks Obama for the stimulus, but the truth is that it saved this nation from collapse. The right attacks the Affordable Care Act viciously, but the truth is that its a decent fix for our doomed health care system. And, the right continually attacks the administration for Solyndra, but there's nothing there. The government has a green agenda - something ALL Americans should embrace. The reality is that YOU are way, way too far right to view the mainstream medias' behavior as anything but biased.

John H. Hinderaker is a lawyer with a nationwide litigation practice. For twenty years he has written on public policy issues including income inequality, income taxes, campaign finance reform, affirmative action, welfare reform, and race in the criminal justice system. This essay appeared February 24, 2012 in Media and is archived on his blog Powerline and is archived at

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