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Alessandra Stanley’s correction rate: Geraldo and counting

The Geraldo Rivera vs. Alessandra Stanley “was it a nudge?” debate has prompted examination into her errors in the past (in Chicago, bizarrely). First the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal ran a piece on Sunday questioning Stanley’s record of errors: “We all make mistakes,” he says kindly, “but Stanley’s pieces have had doozies” (un, less kindly):

The Times has issued corrections to point out that the WB is not a cable network and Fox’s short-lived hotel soap “North Shore” was not a program about the sex industry. Another piece, according to the correction, “misstated the political backdrop of the economic recession that preceded the good times that were the setting of `Friends.’”

A personal favorite, though, is the 2004 column that mentioned Adm. James Stockdale. As the correction said, “The admiral ran as an independent in 1992 with Ross Perot, not as a Republican in 1996 with John McCain, who was not a nominee.” Um, yeah.

Um, ouch. Further ouch: former Chicago Tribune TV critic John Cook takes up the cause at his blog Reference Tone. In an etry entitled “The Wrongest Critic” Cook runs Stanley’s numbers through Nexus and comes up with a whopping corrections rate: “My God,” he exclaimes. “The woman is clocking corrections at more than a monthly rate. And they are stupid, stupid errors.” He then goes on to list them all (NB these corrections do not include anything regarding Katie Couric), going back to October 2001 when she refers to CNN’s Jeff Greenfield as Jeff Greenberg. (NB we have no bone to pick even though this one from August 5th was the first listed: “The TV Watch column in The Arts yesterday, about the legacy of Peter Jennings, misstated the name of the network where he started his career. It is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, not Company”).

Cook crunches Stanely’s corrections rate at 14%; this, by the way, is an improvement over Gawker’s version run in mid-April, which clocked it at 15.3%.

What do those numbers mean? Geraldo aside, they are mostly small; Cook says, fairly, that probably there are no “we have to stop Alessandra Stanley from writing for the Times–now” memos in the works. But, as Regret the Error asked presciently of Seth Mnookin just last week, are corrections an early indicator of something wrong? Said Mnookin: “Certainly, if in every 20th story you file there are two or three, there’s something wrong.” Stanley’s rate averages to one in seven.

Mnookin also said that the NYT had “gotten much better about not viewing every correction as an embarrassment.” In this case, it may be the lack thereof about which Times should be abashed.

Phil Rosenthal: “Stanley’s pieces have had doozies” [Chicago Tribune]
The Wrongest Critic [Reference Tone]
Alessandra Stanley: Often Erudite, Sometimes Accurate [Gawker]
Regret the Interview: A Conversation with Seth Mnookin [RTE]

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