I nearly choked on my tea this morning while reading the editor’s note on the letters page of today’s (December 23rd) New York Times:
In Monday’s newspaper, we published a letter over the name of the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, criticizing Caroline Kennedy. This letter was a fraud and should not have been published. Mr. Delanoë’s office has since confirmed that he did not write it.
Printing the letter, which also appeared on nytimes.com until it was removed, violated the standards and procedures of The New York Times editorial department.
It is our practice to verify the authenticity of every letter we publish. Like more of our letters these days, this one arrived by e-mail. We sent an edited version back to the writer of the e-mail and did not receive a response.
At that point, the letter should have been set aside. It was not.
The Times has expressed its regret to Mr. Delanoë’s office for the lapse in judgment that led to this error. We now express those regrets to our readers.
We will be reviewing our procedures in an attempt to ensure that an error like this is not repeated.
Here’s the link to the The New York Times web page containing the text of the original letter and the online version of the editor’s note, which differs slightly from the printed version.
I know the newspaper industry is in serious financial trouble, but hiring a few fact-checkers might save a lot of embarrassment.