There are newspaper corrections that sincerely intend to repair the record … and then there are New York Times “corrections” to columns that should never have run in the first place. On Friday, the Paper of Record published a Gail Collins essay blaming Scott Walker’s cuts to education funding in Wisconsin for teacher layoffs that took place in 2010. There were only two problems with the column: Scott Walker didn’t take office until 2011, and his public-employee union reforms actually prevented cuts that would have resulted in even more K-12 layoffs. Either of those could have been easily checked, but would have been obvious to anyone who paid the least bit of attention to the controversy in Wisconsin over the last four years.
Sometime yesterday, after the Collins essay — ironically titled “Scott Walker Needs an Eraser” — the New York Times appended this correction to the bottom:
Correction: February 15, 2015
An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that teacher layoffs in Milwaukee in 2010 happened because Gov. Scott Walker “cut state aid to education.” The layoffs were made by the city’s school system because of a budget shortfall, before Mr. Walker took office in 2011.
That’s an amazingly insufficient correction, coming two days and several portions of credibility late. It treats this as though the date of Walker’s inauguration and the layoffs were incidental to Collins’ column, and were merely overlooked. In fact, that was the entire point of the column. Her argument was that Walker’s record was going to trip him up when it came under scrutiny from the national media, which was a ludicrous point considering how the national news media covered Walker’s fights from the 2011 Fleebagger crisis through his recall election victory in 2013. Perhaps Collins slept through those years of national media scrutiny into Walker’s travails and his fiscal strategy in Wisconsin. Her editor obviously did.
So what changes to the column did the Paper of Record make? They deleted one sentence. Actually, it wasn’t even a sentence, but technically a sentence fragment (emphasized below), which is another indicator of editorial quality at the NYT these days: