For the record, this New York Times story from 2009 on famed news anchor Walter Cronkite, known for his adherence to the facts, is comprised of exactly 1,000 words.
The corrections to the story take up another 267 words.
This ratio would indicate that every fourth word of the story was inaccurate. It’s an imperfect way of assessing accuracy, of course, but still… when you write 1,000 words and require 267 words to correct them, you have a serious problem.
I am constantly telling my students that “Mistakes are valuable!” but there comes a point when mistakes stop being valuable and start being egregious.
Despite the astounding number of corrections to the piece, it does not appear to have derailed the career of its author, Alessandra Stanley. Stanley went on to write many other pieces for the New York Times and has enjoyed a successful career in journalism, though several news and media organizations, including the Times, have criticized the accuracy of Stanley’s reporting.
In an August 2009 article examining the mistakes in the Cronkite piece, Clark Hoyt, the Times‘s public editor, described Stanley as “much admired by editors for the intellectual heft of her coverage of television” but “with a history of errors.”
It’s surprising an esteemed newspaper like the Times wouldn’t be fact-checking these pieces better. Years ago, the Hartford Courant ran a front-page article on me in their Sunday edition, and it required a two-hour phone call to fact-check every element of the story.
Stanley is writing less for the Times today. In 2019, she co-founded a weekly newsletter “for worldly cosmopolitans” called Air Mail alongside former Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter.
Wikipedia also indicates she “is friends with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.”
Since when did friendships become worthy of a Wikipedia mention?
Stanely’s last New York Times piece was published in 2022:
And yes, it contains one correction. So far.