Editorial: The quest for accuracy

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1993:

The New York Times is justly reputed as one of the most conscientious of newspa-
pers––because it runs a daily “Corrections” box, because it publishes lots of letters in
response to articles, and because editorial opinions, commentaries, and news analyses are
clearly labeled. Even at that, it sometimes badly goofs. A decade ago the Times reassigned
a distinguished investigative reporter and all but recanted his expose of how government
troops in El Salvador massacred 791 people, most of them children, because the editors
believed a U.S. State Department denial that any such thing ever happened.
Just the same, when the bones and the truth were exposed last fall, the Times
promptly admitted the horrible mistake––on page one.
And that’s why the Times can be trusted.

Mistakes in reporting happen for many reasons: because sources with an ax to
grind may lie or conceal information, because reporters are sometimes confused in the strug-
gle to master a torrent of information on an unfamiliar subject enough to write about it on
short notice, or because information is garbled in transmission or translation.
For that reason, we emulate the Times by publishing a correction box and devoting
a high percentage of our page space to letters and guest columns, some of which assert that
we’re stupid, crooked, and/or heartless.
We don’t believe in concealing errors. Neither do we make them on purpose. If
you think you see an error here, please let us know, as promptly as possible. Send us any
source material you have, so that we can verify what’s right and what’s wrong. If it’s a mat-
ter of factual error, we’ll run a correction; if a matter of interpretation, we’ll run letters
expressing other points of view.
There are only a few kinds of letter we won’t publish: those that may be libelous,
those that are anonymous, those of excessive length, those that are redundant because some-
one else made the same points here already, and those that are either unintelligible or irrele-
vant to animal protection, e.g. abstract philosophical polemics. At that, we’ll usually try to
edit such letters down to something we can use, if there is an insightful or pertinent core.
And when we cut for reasons of space, we cut first the letters telling us how wonderful we
are. The letters saying we’re all stupid, crooked and heartless, if signed, stay in––so long as
they don’t make similar accusations about anyone else without including substantive proof.
We trust you’ll draw your own conclusions.
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