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May 05, 2003

SUSANNA CORNETT IS A BIT HARSH with regard to my dismissal of affirmative action as the cause for New York Times reporter Jayson Blair's travails. But my source for the correction statistics is this week's Weekly Standard, in a "Notebook" piece that isn't online yet. But here's the relevant passage:

Since Blair's name first appeared in the Times on June 9, 1998, he has had 725 total bylines there. His 50 corrections therefore constitute a 6.9 percent discovered-error rate. That's not so great. But it's not nearly so bad as the factual strikeout average posted, to take one random example, by Times Washington-bureau stalwart Adam Clymer over the exact same period: 400 bylines with 36 corrections (9.0 percent). Or how's about Times associate editor R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr., whose 327 bylines with 46 corrections (14.1 percent spoiled copy) would seem to label him -- the numbers don't lie -- less than half as reliable as the hapless youngster Howell Raines is now banishing.

So there you have it. A lot of people are jumping on the "it was affirmative action" bandwagon (Kaus is, and there seemed to be consensus on Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources show yesterday, too). And it might be -- but you can't prove it by saying that anyone with that many errors would have been fired if he were a white male. Because, sadly, the white males at the Times seem to be worse.