November 6, 2007

Jeffrey Rosen made quite a few errors in his NYT Magazine article about John Paul Stevens.

Justice Stevens had to write a letter to the magazine to say that:

1. He did not help break the Japanese naval code in WWII.

2. He did not —after his clerkship — have an offer to teach at Yale Law School.

3. Contrary to Rosen's assertion that when he returned to Chicago, he joined with "moderate and good-government Democrats, who were opposed to the corruption of the Daley machine," he was "never active in politics," Daley wasn't yet mayor, and he's "never suggested that the Daley machine was corrupt.

But I could not find this letter, which appears on page 12 of the paper magazine, through a search on the NYT website. I did find the original article — to which is appended a correction:
An article on Page 50 of The Times Magazine this weekend about Justice John Paul Stevens misstates the university from which he received his undergraduate degree. It was the University of Chicago, not Northwestern.
These are only the outright mistakes of fact. If there is any slanting and skewing, you're on your own.

UPDATE: Eventually, the letter appeared on the website: here.


Pogo said...

Other than those glaring errors, the rest of it was OK. Or not. Hard to tell.

Accurate narrative, facts aside.

Simon said...

It's pretty bad when in one's zeal to produce a laudatory puff piece, one makes mistakes so egregious that the object of the piece has to step in and point out the errors in a public forum.

B said...


Heavy sigh . . . .

It's the New York Times, people!

And you're surprised it's inaccurate? Well blow me down! You sophistikated edjumicated types are kinda slow on the uptake there a little don't you think?

How about today's edition's zinger:
(regardless of which political side you are on), tell me what impression you are supposed to get from this sentence, in the article Cable Channel Nods to Ratings and Leans Left:

"On some nights recently, Mr. Olbermann has even come tantalizingly close to surpassing the ratings of the host he describes as his nemesis, Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, at least among viewers ages 25 to 54, which is the demographic cable news advertisers prefer. Most of the time, though, Mr. O’Reilly outdraws Mr. Olbermann by about 1.5 million viewers over all at the same hour, according to Nielsen Media Research."

"tantalizingly close"? Wow, you would think so unless you read further and find that Olbermann's still 1.5 million short, and even further, find out that Olbermann only gets 733,000 from every demographic.

Save your breath - I'm no O'Reilly fan - I don't watch the cable news shows at all - but c'mon.

And THAT'S JUST THE FIRST NYT ARTICLE I read this morning.

Bottom Line: It's come to this: You must check the Times every day to be informed of what's being talked about in the Elite, academic, and government circles. Then you need to compare to at least 3 other sources to check for accuracy and honesty.

Because you just can't trust The New York Times. How sad.

Robert Burnham said...

This is what happens when a newspaper hires "writers" instead of "reporters."

Hoosier Daddy said...

These are only the outright mistakes of fact. If there is any slanting and skewing, you're on your own.

When I was in college, if I had turned any term paper or thesis that contained such 'outright mistakes of fact' I would have received a big fat F.

How the times change.

paul a'barge said...

You're on your own

I've been on my own, intellectually since I went through puberty. So what?

It's the NY Times. These people lie for a living.

Fen said...

The Grey Whore caught in more lies?

Shocked! I tell you, I'm.... zzzzzz

ricpic said...

The Times dreams of a better world,
A better world for all of us;
And if the Times at times truth furls
For higher truth...why make a fuss?

former law student said...

Part of the cause is the fabled Manhattanite's solipsistic view of the world. West of the Hudson, people, places, and things matter little. Northwestern, University of Chicago -- does knowing the difference really matter in the scheme of things?

But there were corrupt machines in Chicago when Stevens returned, whether Daley was at their head or not. I suspect there's something to the story about Stevens aligning himself with the good government folks.

AJ Lynch said...

Even tho Stevens himself claimed he was never active in politics, Former Law Student still believes "Stevens was aligned with the good government folks"???

former law student said...

Yes, AJ. If you believe, as I do, that different words have separate and distinct meanings, it is quite possible to align yourself with good government folks yet not be "active in politics."

A little web surfing turns up this comment: "Does John Stevens think of himself as a Republican? Oh, absolutely," said Lawrence Rosenthal, a Chicago lawyer who was a Stevens law clerk in 1984. "Justice Stevens would laugh to hear himself called a liberal."

Rosenthal said Stevens often talked about how, as a child growing up in Hyde Park, Ill., he admired Chicago Alderman Charles Merriam, a good-government, reform Republican who represented the ward.

Along with being a Republican alderman, Merriam was well known as a professor of political science at U of C, who chaired many city council commissions investigating crime and corruption. Now, Stevens was a total product of the U of C, a next-door neighbor and student at the Lab School, then an undergraduate student.

Later, after getting his J.D. and starting his own firm, according to the Supreme Court Historical Society, Stevens served as associate counsel of a House of Representatives subcommittee studying monopoly power in 1951, and from 1953 to 1955 as a member of the attorney general's committee to study antitrust laws.

So, from an early age he admired a good-government, reform politician, alderman of his ward and faculty member at his undergrad. Further, I would submit that any Midwest lawyer selected by Congressmen and the AG must have lost his political virginity somewhere along the way, even if he never ran for office. Therefore, my suspicion that there's something to the story about Stevens aligning himself with the good government folks has factual support.

Steven said...

Over the years, I have noticed that any time I read an article (in any newspaper) about something I have first hand knowledge of, I find that the reporter has gotten about 25% of the facts wrong. The great insight came when I realized that this is of course true of every article I read. The problem is that for the subjects where I don't have any first hand knowledge, I just don't know which 25% of what I'm reading is completely wrong.

Pogo said...

" the reporter has gotten about 25% of the facts wrong."

The first time I noticed this was on my prior favorite program, 60 minutes. They completely mistold the facts behind a story on the Catholic church, and I quit watching them entirely that day (around 1983) because I did not know whether or not what I was hearing BS.

Thus began my long climb up from liberalism.

Revenant said...

he's "never suggested that the Daley machine was corrupt"

That's even harder to believe than Thomas' claim to have never discussed Roe vs. Wade. :)

Learning Curve said...

Thx for the post, which archives and makes searchable forever the very facts the NYT tried to hide. Keep up the good work.

JimMtnViewCa said...

What? An NYT article with above-average accuracy? I'll have to consider subscribing....or not.

From Inwood said...

Don’t you people understand? The NYT knows more about Justice Stevens than he himself knows.

Liberty Valance: Print the legend.
NYT: Print the template.

I have a HS & college friend who still can't get over his love for the NYT. A while back he sent me a NYT article about our alma mater, but while always wearing the mantle of "moderate" & always crowning me with that of "troublemaker", he had to add that, tee hee, he was not sending me a "political" NYT article.

My answer to him follows.


Thanks. I forwarded it to [another alum].

As you know, I routinely search the NYT Online for "Inwood" & I will now add "[our alma ma]".

But you think that you're not aggressive & that I am?
Right away, you start off by telling me that there are "no politics in the article". That's called "passive aggressive" behavior. Don't cloak yourself in purity.

And it's a rare NYT article which is not politicized, or haven't you noticed? For instance, many banal articles on Inwood wind up with a would-be deep-think riff about poverty which can or should be conquered by socialism. Let it rest, unaddressed, as Cole Porter would say.

For the umpteenth time, here’s why I don't buy the NYT, on paper or on the web [this was before the change].

First, I don't want to add to their declining revenues.

Second, as someone has said: The NYT has become something I never bother to read unless I accidentally delete my talking points email from the DNC that morning.

Third, the NYT has become ridiculous both in its ideological approach to “news” & its unprofessional editing.

But, more important, most important, I don't want to keep wasting my time unlearning what I was hoping to have learned from the Grey Lady. I keep telling you that it makes more sense to surf the web first & see what the NYT thought was important & which facts about such important matter were ideologically slanted or just plain wrongly presented. And the 'net will also alert me to the NYT's few worthwhile articles such as the one on the Black Left Tackle from Mississippi.

Note, I’m not talking about mere opinions on the ‘net re the NYT, I’m talking about facts. You do realize from Logic 101, what happened happened & what did not happen did not happen. And yet you still read & cite factually-impaired NYT articles with their faux science, faux Republicans, faux stats.

And yes, I’m willing to spend a few minutes on an evocative NYT article on Inwood or [our alma ma], all the while knowing that I'll have to be aware of the inevitable incorrect political spin & faulty economics.

And BTW, note the correction already appended online by the NYT to the article. Even if it had no editor from our beloved alma ma, any editor, even one from Dubuque, should be struck by the incongruity in the article & at least question it before it was printed. It's like the NYT mistake about the Broadway No 2 IRT train which they thought was slated to run down 2nd Ave whenever that subway gets built or the ones where it mixes up my Inwood with Inwood L.I.

And don’t tell me that “in fairness” it printed a correction here. It never does when the mistake involves more cosmic matters such as deep hatred of Bush rather than an inconsequential mistake like this one.

Gary Rosen said...


It reminds me of the saying, "Everything you read in the newspaper is true except for those things you have personal knowledge of."

From Inwood said...


You note that

“any time [you] read an article (in any newspaper) about something [you] have first hand knowledge of, [you] find that the reporter has gotten about 25% of the facts wrong.”

The problem is that we don’t have “first hand knowledge” about most things. And so the friend referred to in my previous post & other NYT epigones would say “who am I (the NYT epigone) gonna believe, the NYT with all its resources or you (i.e., me)?

So at lunch one day someone (the one who’d bragged the day before how he’d driven to Jersey the past weekend & shopped without sales tax) would call our attention to the fact the NYT had published one of its stock stories about how the rich were getting rich & the poor poorer under Reagan with the ever impressive misleading stats to back it up. [How to lie with statistics.] My response would be ignored. Even my saying that in reality in the US the rich were getting rich & the poor were getting rich was tut tuted.

Two weeks later, the National Review or Commentary would debunk the NYT lies & I would call this to the attention of the lunch bunch. “Borrrrrrrring” our friend would say, & others would say “[Inwood], try to keep au courant; keep up with the conversation; that’s old stuff.”

Now with the ‘net the NYT lies can be shown up in realtime all times. Of course the epigone then dismiss the ‘net, but they now they find themselves defensive & close-minded in so doing.