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The Washington Times is having a hard time in this rough-and-tumble world of journalism. With a staff of 228 people, the paper has to cover the sprawling Washington metropolitan area while scraping for White House scoops and placing correspondents in Iraq.
It all stacks up to a huge job. Under such strictures, some newspapering functions must suffer. For instance, the paper relies mightily on wire copy, and Associated Press photos often dominate the front section.
Another laggard: the correction box. Over the past nine days, the Times hasn’t published a single correction, in keeping with a long-running failure to self-police. (Dept. of Media, “A Matter of Life and Death,” 10/31/03). Readers might suppose that the paper is infallible. Over this period, after all, the Times has published all manner of detailed pieces on budgets, wars, baseball stadiums, and presidential memos. Statistics, quotes, and dates are just spilling off the page. So there are certainly plenty of errors in there, if only the paper had the manpower to cite them.
The Washington Times’ competitors—with their huge staffs and newsroom budgets—publish more corrections. Over the same nine-day period, for instance, the New York Times churned out at least 50 corrections. And the Washington Post clocked in with more than 25.
In consideration of the Washington Times’ constraints, Dept. of Media is hereby volunteering to run the paper’s corrections box. It’s a big responsibility and may well eat up precious space in this paper, but the greater imperative of journalistic accountability offers no other course.
The corrections will run periodically in the accompanying box, which has a few uncorrected mistakes from recent stories to prime the pump. If you spot an error in the Washington Times, please follow the instructions therein. Dept. of Media will also run Editor’s Notes, Clarifications, and other observations when appropriate.
Quite a Stretch
Whether it’s ethics, sourcing, or punctuation, you can always rely on the D.C. community publication the InTowner to push journalistic boundaries. At a time when editors are chanting about short, punchy writing, the InTowner, as always, goes against convention.
This comes from a March InTowner piece on a neighborhood dispute.
Undeterred by the powers of the forces arrayed against them, the active membership of the Neighborhood Council, supported by the neighborhood’s preservation society and the two ANC commissioners, have engaged the legal services of the well-known litigator in these matters, Richard Nettler of the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi law firm to take on the State Department, the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and their putative allies—in this instance to argue before the District’s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) essentially the meaning of one word in a grandfathering section of the famous federal statute known in the trade as the “Foreign Missions Act,” a public law crafted by the U.S. Congress to deal with such matters as foreign missions in neighborhoods zoned residential. (Emphasis added.)
That’s 128 words—13 more than the last time Dept. of Media called readers’ attention to the InTowner’s grammatical breakthroughs. In this case, even Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style appears to endorse the sentence: “Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption, and to announce a long appositive or summary.” (Emphasis added.)
InTowner Publisher and Managing Editor P.L. Wolff refuses to outline his philosophy on sentence structure. “The fact of the matter is, if you want to fill up column inches on…long sentences, then fine, but you’re not going to get any quotes from me,” says Wolff.—Erik Wemple
Washington Times Corrections
•An April 2 story by Denise Barnes contained the following errors:
—The story incorrectly stated that the D.C. school board had announced the dismissal of Ballou Senior High School Principal Art Bridges. In fact, the board has no such authority; it was Interim Superintendent Elfreda W. Massie who announced that Bridges, who was on leave, would not return to his post.
—The story gave an incorrect name for the victim of a shooting at Ballou: The victim was James Richardson, not James Richards.
—The story gave an incorrect date for the shooting, which occurred on Feb. 2, not Oct. 2.
•An April 7 story by Matthew Cella incorrectly reported that a woman was robbed on the 200 block of Champlain Street NW. In fact, the robbery occurred on the 2200 block.
An April 10 story by Matthew Cella and Eric Fisher on a proposed baseball facility near RFK Stadium contained a misstated assessment of community support for the project. The piece noted that “Residents’ opinions about the mayor’s plan varied.” However, the piece then went on to quote just one resident, who held two contradictory views on the facility: “I think it’s great to have a team here,” said Bob Poland. He was also quoted as saying, “Let them put [the stadium] in Virginia.”
Corrections Policy: The Washington Times lacks the resources to run its own corrections. Therefore, it relies on the Washington City Paper to manage this critical function. If you see an error in the Washington Times, please contact Erik Wemple at (202) 332-2100 ext. 1450, or e-mail to WashTimes Correx @ washcp.com.