Is the New York Times hiding its online mistakes?

In the old days, newspapers published once a day, and if they made a mistake, they ran a clarification or correction the next day.

In the online era, stories are constantly being updated, improved and tweaked, often without the reader’s knowledge.

Is that just the torrid pace of online journalism today, or is it sneaky?

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan thinks the paper hasn’t been straight with its readers. The paper sent out an alert late last week that said: “Obama rejects Republican proposal for short-term debt limit plan.”

But the Times totally overstated the case. As Politico noted, the story was soon updated to reflect that the two sides were still talking.

Standards editor Philip Corbett told Sullivan that no correction was warranted because a specific, early plan had been rejected.

“It was clear that the White House was not going to accept the Republican proposal as offered,” Corbett said. “As we did further reporting, we were able to update the story and present a fuller and more nuanced account, making clear that while the White House did not agree to the original plan, the two sides were continuing to talk and trying to reach a deal.”

Sullivan isn’t buying his explanation.

“With no outright correction, The Times at least should have done more to explain the change in the later version of the article,” Sullivan said.

In another instance, when police killed a woman who had breached security outside the Capitol, the Times reported that Miriam Carey “managed to get out of the car, and was shot by several officers.”

However, a later version said she did not get out of the car before she was shot.

Again, no correction. The later Times piece simply said, “Initially, law enforcement officials said Ms. Carey had gotten out of the car when she was shot on Thursday afternoon.”

No acknowledgement that the paper had screwed up.

Again, Corbett said an update with no correction was fine, and Sullivan said a correction was needed.

“Even more so here, since the initial ‘news’ of Ms. Carey’s being out of her car was not widely reported by other news media and was not attributed to a named or prominent law enforcement official,” Sullivan said.

I don’t think this is a conspiracy to hide mistakes, but I do think that news organizations rationalize their way into avoiding corrections, even though readers may never see the later version.

Good for Margaret Sullivan for shining a light on the practice.

Polling Pile-On

I thought I detected a slight change in tone in the TV punditry as Thursday’s default deadline nears.

It has gone from “it’s all the other side’s fault” to “it’s the other side’s fault but holy moly, are we really going to plunge off this cliff?”

With negotiations stalled in both the House and Senate, with postponed meetings and delayed votes, the action became nearly impossible for journalists to follow.

But that doesn’t mean the public isn’t assigning responsibility. Some conservatives have quarreled with the methodology of a Wall Street Journal/ABC poll that showed the GOP bearing the brunt of the blame for the mess in Washington.

Well, here’s a reality check. In a new Washington Post/ABC poll, 74 percent disapprove of how the Republicans are handling the shutdown, compared with 61 percent who disapprove of the Democrats and 53 percent who disapprove of President Obama.

Polling is far from perfect, but sometimes partisans simply refuse to accept the facts.

Shutdown Slams

Barbara Boxer clearly went too far. The Democratic senator made an unfortunate analogy about battered spouses.

“When you start acting like you’re committing domestic abuse, you’ve got a problem,” Boxer said. “I love you dear, but, you know, I’m shutting down your entire government. I love you dear, but I’m going to default and you’re going to be weak.”

Fox’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck angrily responded.

“You know who should be infuriated? Women who have suffered from domestic abuse,” she said.

It would be nice if pundits on the left would challenge their own side on this kind of talk.

And it would be nice if pundits on the right would criticize folks like Freedom Watch president Larry Klayman, who told a veterans’ rally that President Obama “bows down to Allah” and should “put the Koran down.” Obama, of course, is a practicing Christian.

Salon’s Joan Walsh doesn’t hold back in describing the GOP’s conservative wing.

“I worry that granting Republicans even tiny tweaks to the ACA would seem to do what the president and Democratic leaders promised they wouldn’t: reward debt-ceiling/shutdown hostage-taking, however modestly,” Walsh writes.

“But I don’t know why we’d assume that the default-denying, Confederate flag-tolerant, flat-earth caucus of the GOP would come away from this experiment in political terrorism chastened,” she continues.  “They don’t believe the polls, which are dreadful for them. They are capable of living on bread and water and fantasy, politically. In their Fox News bubble, it’s always sunny in Tea Party land, so if they are forced to suffer this ‘defeat’ – almost certainly with Democratic votes in the House – why would we assume they’d learn their lesson and just go away?”

Because the country is about to plunge into default? Well, we’ll see.

National Review’s Robert Costa reports on GOP frictions behind the scenes.

“A flurry of phone calls and meetings…led to that consensus among the approximately 50 Republicans who form the House GOP’s right flank,” Costa reports. “They’re furious with Senate Republicans for working with Democrats to craft what one leading tea-party congressman calls a ‘mushy piece of s***.’ Another House conservative warns, ‘If Boehner backs this, as is, he’s in trouble…’

“‘How can folks be satisfied with income verification being put into place?’ asks a top House conservative aide. ‘That was already law of the land, and the administration just chose to delay it. Just another thing that I think McConnell can be dinged on. I just don’t see how there can be widespread support for this in the conference in the House, and I am amazed at how much bad blood has developed between House and Senate Republicans the past few days.’”

That civil war has been irresistible for the mainstream media. And Costa, a dogged reporter, is winning plaudits for his shutdown coverage, even from the New Republic. He talked about his “access.”

“My job is connecting the dots with all these sources I have on the right. It gives me the ability to understand the language of conservatism,” he writes. “When I cover Tea Party activists and conservative House members, it’s not like I’m a reporter going into a zoo and raising my eyebrows at the scene and filing some color piece. I’m really taking seriously the ways conservatives think, use power, and practice politics, and reporting that straight…

“Broadly speaking, I think conservative outlets could do a better job. That’s not to say they’re doing a horrible job. If you look at the last two to three years, there’s great reporting at places like The Daily Caller, The Washington Examiner, The Weekly Standard, even The Wall Street Journal editorial page—interesting reporting, solid reporters, great reporters like David Drucker and John McCormack.

"I think the story is better than a lot of people believe. The only thing I don’t buy into, especially on the right, is this team mentality—that there’s some kind of vague, conservative team that everyone’s playing for. I’ve never bought into that. I think you can have your conservative opinions but still cover things objectively. There’s some kind of sense—and I’m not thinking of any particular outlet—that there’s a conservative team, and if you go against the team, it causes problems.”

Costa made clear he is not on the team.

Megyn’s Miracle

The president of MSNBC said it could not have happened, but it did. Megyn Kelly increased her audience by 100 percent in a single night.

“Nielsen has conducted an investigation into the ratings for Megyn Kelly’s new Fox News Channel show, ‘The Kelly File,’ following grousing by MSNBC chief Phil Griffin,” the New York Daily News reports. “The investigation has revealed that the numbers for Kelly are accurate…Last Tuesday, the day after its debut, ‘The Kelly File’ doubled its audience, crushing ‘The Rachel Maddow Show,’ its MSNBC competition.

Griffin called for a probe, dubbing the ratings feat ‘impossible.’”

O’Reilly Vs. Kurtz

O’Reilly and I had a spirited discussion about the media’s coverage of religion, pegged to some candid comments by NBC’s Luke Russert that I quoted here yesterday. Check out the video here.

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