Paul Krugman, R.I.P.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005 11:03 pm by Neal

From comes this news that the NY Times is throwing in the towel on free web access to their columnists. My theory is that they are tired of correcting and retracting the writings of said columnists.

Paulie, We Hardly Knew Ye.
Which, on the whole, is just as well. As of today, the New York Times has put its bizarro lineup of political columnists–Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Bob Herbert, Nick Kristof, Tom Friedman et al.–behind a $50 a year barrier called “Times Select.” To which all we can say, in George Strait’s immortal words, is:

Goodbye, farewell, so long, vaya con Dios, Good luck, wish you well, take it slow. Easy come girl, easy go.

It’s not just that we won’t be reading Krugman and the rest of the Times’ menagerie any more. Neither will anyone else. So, while I’ll miss the fun of dissecting Krugman’s efforts, there isn’t much point in tearing apart something that our readers didn’t see in the first place.

So, to paraphrase Richard Nixon, we won’t have Paul Krugman to kick around any more. All good things must end, I guess. Autumn winds must blow. Time to hit the “save” button!

Indeed. But, if ever a fleeing dog deserved kicking, Paul Krugman should still be yelping. This article, Third Time’s Not a Charm by Donald Luskin, is a truly unbelievable accounting of ineptness (or worse) at the New York Times. The self-appointed “newspaper of record” has failed utterly to correct its own record of Paul Krugman’s numerous, blatant, and confessed errors. For example,

On the afternoon of September 2, Krugman posted an admission to that effect on the Times website, in the area reserved for letters to the editor. It’s a sweet victory for the Krugman Truth Squad to have squeezed three corrections out of Krugman from a single falsehood.

But there’s a big problem.

Krugman’s admission was never published in the print edition of the Times, so the majority of Times readers have never seen it. And archival versions of the three prior Krugman columns bearing his falsehoods about the consortium’s results remain uncorrected to this day on the Times’s own website and in the Lexis-Nexis and ProQuest databases. So generations of future readers of the “newspaper of record” will see uncorrected falsehoods, even when those falsehoods have been admitted to by their author.

Admitted errors willfully uncorrected are nothing less than willful lies. And those lies are no longer just Krugman’s responsibility. No, those lies are being told with the acquiescence of the Times’s “public editor” Byron Calame, who claims to be the “readers’ representative,” and editorial page editor Gail Collins, who has publicly committed to watch-dogging the Times’s columnists.

The Times’s official policy on corrections for columnists, promulgated in March 2004 by Collins, states that columnists “are expected to correct every error. Anyone who refused to fulfill this critical obligation would not be a columnist for The New York Times very long.” Furthermore, Collins states that

we now encourage a uniform approach, with the correction made at the bottom of the piece. … There are several reasons, some of them practical. The columnists are widely syndicated and it is important that their corrections run within the columns to maximize the chance that they will be seen by all their readers, everywhere.

On the face of it, “public editor” Calame would seem to agree. In an entry to his web journal on September 2, shortly before Krugman’s admission appeared on the Times’s website, Calame called Krugman’s original August 19 statement about the recount a “sweeping assertion” and a “sloppy generalization.” Calame said he “urged” Krugman and Collins “to run a formal correction to clear up the whole tangle,” saying that he thinks “the value to readers of having corrections appended promptly to articles” is “quite significant.”

Good grief and good riddance.

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