Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It's kerfuffle time ...

... a gentleman by the name of David Sketchley has sent - to The Inquirer and to MediaLens - a complaint about a recent piece by my colleague Carlin Romano (Premature obit sends book's sales soaring). Mr. Sketchley thinks that Reuters and the New York Times both reported that Chavez did not refer to Noam Chomsky as having died and that Carlin was remiss in reporting that Chavez had said such.

Here is the text of an email I have sent Mr. Sketchley:

Dear Mr. Sketchley:
Carlin Romano was hardly the only person to believe that Hugo Chavez expressed regret over not having met Noam Chomsky before Chomsky's death. Perhaps Carlin had read this in the New York Times, Sept. 22:

A Scholar Is Alive, Actually, and Hungry for Debate


At a news conference after his spirited address to the United Nations on Wednesday, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela expressed one regret: not having met that icon of the American left, the linguist Noam Chomsky, before his death.

Or maybe this: Chávez endorsement results in a best-seller (please note: a combination of Reuters and the NY Times) .

It is also worth noting that the two articles I have just cited are dated Sept. 22, whereas the article that mentions Galbraith (Venezuela's Chavez Continues Anti - Bush Harangue) is dated Sept. 21. Perhaps the later version is correct and the earlier one was not.
I have been unable to find any transcript of Chavez's remarks at the news conference, so I can't say which version is correct. But Carlin was well within the bounds of reason to comment upon what had been so widely reported.
Frank Wilson

Update: Mr. Sketchley has indeed sent me a cordial, informative email in response to mine.


  1. Anonymous2:51 AM

    Hear, hear, Frank! (if blogger will let me, it was eating comments last night)

  2. Thanks, Maxine. I have yet to hear back from Mr. Sketchley.

  3. Anonymous9:00 AM

    Hello Frank.

    I see you never published the correction the New York Times made and you never published my reply.

    For your information the NYT issued the following correction and apology in its Fri, 2006-10-06 edition:

    "Editors’ Note

    An article on Sept. 21 about criticism of President Bush at the United Nations by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran reported that Mr. Chavez praised a book by Noam Chomsky, the linguist and social critic. It reported that later, at a news conference, Mr. Chavez said that he regretted not having met Mr. Chomsky before he died. The article noted that in fact, Mr. Chomsky is alive. The assertion that Mr. Chavez had made this misstatement was repeated in a Times interview with Mr. Chomsky the next day.

    In fact, what Mr. Chavez said was, “I am an avid reader of Noam Chomsky, as I am of an American professor who died some time ago.” Two sentences later Mr. Chavez named John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist who died last April, calling both him and Mr. Chomsky great intellectual figures.

    Mr. Chavez was speaking in Spanish at the news conference, but the simultaneous English translation by the United Nations left out the reference to Mr. Galbraith and made it sound as if the man who died was Mr. Chomsky.

    Readers pointed out the error in e-mails to The Times soon after the first article was published. Reporters reviewed the recordings of the news conference in English and Spanish, but not carefully enough to detect the discrepancy, until after the Venezuelan government complained publicly on Wednesday.

    Editors and reporters should have been more thorough earlier in checking the accuracy of the simultaneous translation.

    The Times welcomes comments and suggestions, or complaints about errors that warrant correction. Messages on news coverage can be e-mailed to nytnews@nytimes.com or left toll-free at 1-888-NYT-NEWS (1-888-698-6397).

    Comments on editorials may be e-mailed to letters@nytimes.com or faxed to (212) 556-3622.

    Readers dissatisfied with a response or concerned about the paper's journalistic integrity may reach the public editor, Byron Calame, at public@nytimes.com or (212) 556-7652."

    Any chance of an albeit late apology?