Friday, August 15, 2008


In a little section of Page A2 called “For The Record,” the Los Angeles Times is always quick to make corrections to the stories appearing appear in print. Most of the corrections are minor – a misspelled name (Goddard instead of Godard), or a wrong attribution, (putting words in the wrong mouth) or something that seems simply like a reporter didn’t know what he/she was talking about (“She fell off the balance beam during her mount”, instead of her dismount). I have always been surprised at how quickly the Times makes such corrections but more surprised about how many things are printed without someone catching the mistakes ahead of time. It makes me wonder if there is anything anymore like an editor.

But this week the LA Times made an unbelievably bizarre correction. I did not read the initial story but “For the Record” made it clear what had been said.

"An article in Saturday's Calendar section about the Armenian Navy Band
making its US debut Friday at Walt Disney Concert Hall said, 'Armenians
carry in their collective DNA the memory of what they consider a
genocide by the Turks in the early 20th century.' The statement
should not have qualified the term 'Genocide'; historical evidence and
research support the accuracy of the term." (Bolding mine)

When I read the correction I just about fell out of my chair. First of all, why on earth was it even necessary in a musical concert notice to make such a reference to an almost 100 year old problem which is still being debated and which is far from being settled. The reference has no business being there. The wording used in the article first tentatively puts the Times on one side of the dispute. But next, why on earth would a Times editor have allowed a correction to be made that takes all tentativeness away and says in effect, “We’re sorry. It wasn’t just considered a genocide; it WAS one!” None of this needed to be in an announcement of a band concert. Why would an editor allow such an inflammatory statement to be made into an otherwise non-political article and then compound it with what was not at all a correction but a solid taking of sides?

Is it possible that whoever oversees the “For The Record” had no idea of what a hornet’s nest could be stirred up?

I am aware of the historical Turkish/Armenian “conflict” over those events. Whether or not it was genocide is something our own US Government is now being asked to decide. I have read much and do not claim to understand enough about what happened to make an informed decision on it. But the Times department would have to be staffed by those born yesterday to believe they were in any way “correcting” one error by making a more egregious correction. My thinking is that after the first write-up, the Times got some complaining phone calls and the second write-up was an appeasement. Pity the Turks who just obliquely got kicked in the teeth.

I’d like to think the LA Times can do better writing and editing than this, but I have to guess no one at the LA Times really cares.

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