Monday, November 26, 2007

A short history of Atlantic Yards "rowback" in the New York Times

On Saturday, when the New York Times reported that the Atlantic Yards arena "is scheduled to open after 2009," (emphases added here and below), the Times didn´t say it was correcting a previous report that the arena would open in 2009.

That was a variant of "rowback," which former Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent described in his 3/14/04 column as "a way that a newspaper can cover its butt without admitting it was ever exposed." In other words, a correction without formally acknowledging a correction--even though the Times publishes the most minute factual corrections daily.

The Times has done this periodically, publishing updated correct information but without (in most cases) publishing corrections.

The eminent domain suit

4/5/07: The Times finally explains that the dismissal of the federal eminent domain suit did not mean the suit was gone for good but that the federal magistrate had said it could be better filed in state court. The original report failed to mention that.

AY a rezoning?

11/26/06: The Atlantic Yards plan is, finally, not a rezoning, as the Times once described it.

Would a 6-8% cut be meaningful?

9/29/06: The Times, more than three weeks later, finally explains that the "six to eight percent cut" planned for Atlantic Yards would bring the project back to square one in terms of square footage. (This isn´t exactly a correction, but it is such a major clarification that, had it been included in the original story, it would´ve raised a red flag with the editors, who certainly wouldn´t have put it on the front page.)

Only 1500 construction jobs

8/25/06: The Times describes the number of Atlantic Yards construction jobs as 1500, over ten years, rather than 15,000 (which means job-years).The Times had previously used the figure of 12,000 jobs, taken from a news release.

The project isn´t in Downtown Brooklyn

3/10/06: I note how the Times has stopped describing Atlantic Yards as being located in "Downtown Brooklyn," but without publishing a correction. (This preceded the 4/27/06 megacorrection.)

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