Chico and the man.

Media criticism.
March 31 2005 7:17 PM

Chico and the Man

What Los Angeles Times press pundit David Shaw could learn from reading his own paper.

(Continued from Page 1)

1) The print and Web versions of today's Times include a correction for the Slater story. Yet no correction has been attached directly to the Web version of the story. If it's so easy to "correct errors quickly" on the Web, as Shaw writes, what's keeping the Times? Even a junior blogger would have posted a correction to copy as faulty as this by now.

2) Maybe Slater's understanding that four editors were back-stopping him and his copy induced the complacency that caused the errors and the misrepresentation. Do safety nets encourage the notion that accuracy is a collective rather than an individual responsibility? Perhaps newspaper reporters would demonstrate greater vigilance if they had fewer editors. (Mickey Kaus, who's wasted fewer years of his life editing bad copy than I,speculates in Kausfilesthat four-layer over-editing drains the Times of writerly vitality.)


Shaw's insistence that the reporter's privilege be reserved for professionals would put the government in the business of deciding who is and who is not a professional, therefore who is a journalist, which would constitute an embryonic form of licensing. But as Jacob Weisberg recently noted in Slate, "Journalism does not require any specific training, or institutional certification, or organizational membership, or even regular employment. It's just an activity some people engage in that is protected under the Constitution." The reporter's privilege should protect acts of journalism as opposed to journalists—professional or otherwise.

Such a generous definition would even apply to the Los Angeles Times on its bad days.

[Addendum, 4/1: The Times has now added the correction to the Web version of his Chico article.]


Thanks to Brady Westwater of LA Cowboy for telling me the Times hasn't appended a correction to Slater's story on the Web. Send your equally useful suggestions via e-mail to (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at



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