Easterbrook corrects 2 out of 3 errors but does not acknowledge the source: is this just standard practice in the world of paid journalism?

by Andrew Gelman on October 20, 2011 · 4 comments

in Media,Methodology

The other day, Gregg Easterbrook posted a Reuters column that had three errors. The column was reposted on to the Washington Monthly website, where I saw it.

I blogged on Easterbrook’s mistakes, corrected his numbers, and supplied links to the correct numbers. (I was bothered not just by the mistakes with the numbers but that the rest of the column was all cliches.)

A couple days later I checked back on Easterbrook’s column to see if he’d run a correction. He (or his editor) had fixed two of the three mistakes and also supplied links—the exact links that I had given in my post. They also added a correction note at the end of the column:

The original version of this column listed incorrect statistics for George H.W. Bush’s October 1991 approval rating and Barack Obama’s current approval rating.

But they didn’t credit me! Even though (a) they used the numbers and links I had supplied, and (b) several of the comments on the original column linked to my blog post. I’m almost certain that Easterbrook or his editors read my blog and used it to make the correction. But they didn’t cite me or link to me at all! That doesn’t seem fair.

Whassup with this? To take this beyond my griping for a moment, is this standard practice at Reuters and other outlets, that they just take other people’s stuff without giving credit? It’s not plagiarism—they’re not copying my words—but, still, I think it would be polite to reveal to their readers where their information comes from. Is this just the way things go in the world of paid journalism?

P.S. More bad news here.

{ 4 comments }

DougJ October 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm

“To take this beyond my griping for a moment, is this standard practice at Reuters and other outlets, that they just take other people’s stuff without giving credit?”

Yes.

frankcross October 20, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Not crediting you would be consistent with not wanting to encourage outside people checking facts on their articles.

Ryan October 20, 2011 at 11:02 pm

After looking at both NYT and the Post’s online corrections, it does seem that after-publication corrections often don’t credit the folks who first pointed out the errors.

That said, the errors have been corrected. There are now one fewer people wrong on the internet. Misson accomplished?

Andrew Gelman October 20, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Ryan:

Unfortunately, the mission is not accomplished! See here.

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