Friday, October 06, 2006

Well, excuuuuse us ...

... this, which is pertinent to this post here last week, appeared among this morning's New York Times Corrections:

"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."

So it appears Chavez did not think Chomsky was no longer with us. I'm glad that's ckleared up now. But was Inquirer book critic out of line for commenting on a news item circulated by the New York Times? I don't think so. I'm hardly one to swear by the accuracy and probity of the Times at all times, but I don't assume something is wrong just because it appears there. Quite the opposite. Until I have reason to think otherwise, I presume that the Times's reporters and editors do the job they're paid to do and that what they report can be trusted.


  1. Seems a reasonable assumption to me, Frank. I am often not too impressed by the accuracy of reporting in the Times, which I read daily, it often seems a bit sloppy. I don't read the NYT as regularly, but the standards should be hight, and you would think that they should get something like that right.

    However, it seems rather ignorant to me not to know that Chomsky is alive, if you are a general reporter. Whatever one may think of Chomsky, he is a "giant" figure.

  2. The problem was not that the Times did not know Chomsky was alive, but rather that it did not know that Chavez knew it, too. In any case, the fault was not the Times'.

    The real winner is Chomsky, of course. How many untold thousands of books did he sell to an ignorant public that thought he was dead? I expect him to build on that inadvertent sucess and fake a suicide attempt, then drop out of sight in a bid to promote his next book.
    Detectives Without Borders
    "Because Murder is More Fun Away from Home"