I preserved an image of it, lest it evanesce:
I included that "Get the best of The New Yorker" part, because I truly love the best of The New Yorker, and I have loved The New Yorker since long before the current editors got their hands on it, since the days when it had a famous obsession with fact-checking and meticulous editing.
Here, in an article that correctly calls Verrilli Donald Verrilli (in a sentence that I'd identified as "the stupidest sentence," the editors — making a correction to try to minimize Toobin's embarrassment — managed to swap in "Paul" as Verrilli's first name. It's as though they want to trash the magazine's reputation.
For a refresher on The New Yorker's reputation for fact-checking, here's an article by Peter Canby (from 2012) in The Columbia Journalism Review titled "Fact-Checking at The New Yorker." Excerpt:
Prior to the Tina Brown period, there were eight checkers. And particularly during the editorship of William Shawn, which was when I started—Shawn was the editor of The New Yorker from ’52 to ’87—stories progressed in an orderly, almost stately way toward publication. Writers would work on pieces for as long as they felt was useful and necessary, and that often meant years. Once the pieces were accepted, they were edited, copyedited, and fact-checked on a schedule that typically stretched out for weeks and sometimes for months....So... did some editor tell Toobin he had to dash off a piece about the Hobby Lobby oral argument? Did he glance at a few things and decide his angle would be War-on-Women stuff about 3 female Justices standing up for birth control versus those religionists and corporations-are-people wingers? That might explain missing that the case is about a federal statute, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and not a constitutional right to "religious expression."
So that was the old New Yorker. The biggest difference between David Remnick’s New Yorker today and the Shawn New Yorker is timeliness...
Under Tina [Brown], writing concepts began to originate in editors’ meetings, and assignments were given out to writers who were essentially told what to write. And a lot of what the editors wanted was designed to be timely and of the moment and tended to change from day to day.
So the result was that we were working on pieces that were really much more controversial and much less well-formulated than anything we had dealt with previously, and often we would put teams of checkers to work on these pieces and checking and editing could go on all night.Do any of these checkers know law? Do they just trust Toobin because he's a law professor? How could he possibly get something so wrong as to mix up the Constitution and a statute?
When the new, remade The New Yorker of the last decade was gearing up and we started getting all these late-breaking stories, issues such as logic and fairness and balance—which previously had been the responsibility of the editors—began to fall on the checkers.
This wasn’t by anybody’s design. It was because the editors were really busy putting these stories together and they wanted us to look at things from the outside and see how they were framed, and look at them from the inside and look at the logic and the way they were reported and the way quotes were used and many other such things.If you were editing this article, would you accept the word "just" used 3 times in one paragraph? I sure wouldn't. But Canby is a fact-checking expert, not a word-editing expert (apparently). There's nothing factually wrong with repeating the word "just," though it does seem to be expressing how little thought when into these changes. It just became... it just became... it just seemed... There's so little responsible human agency in that.
That responsibility came to us not in the way of anybody saying suddenly, “You’re doing that.” It just became that when a problem arose, they would come to us and say, “Why didn’t you warn us?” And so it just became clear that there was this gap between editing and checking that had opened up under the pressure of later-breaking stories, and it just seemed logical that we should fill it. It made our job more challenging, and more fun.
Much of Canby's article is about the difficulty of checking the accuracy of quotes a writer puts together using tapes and notes from interviews. But Toobin's piece relies on a Supreme Court transcript. It was perfectly easy to check, and the motivation to check was extremely high since the transcript was on line for everyone to see, including a lot of lawyers and law professors (like me) who stand ready to jump on mistakes and distortions in spinning a case that is pending before a court that might be influenced by these writings.
The sloppiness here was