Monday, August 03, 2009

Alessandra Stanley Is the Luckiest Critic on the Planet

It's No Longer Enough to Merely be Good, But Error-Prone Times TV Critic Keeps Having Teflon Sprayed On Her By Bosses

In reading Clark Hoyt's column in yesterday's New York Times, it was good to see the paper at least had a clue about the myriad of mistakes chief TV critic Alessandra Stanley is wan to make when she serves up a review.
But what Hoyt left unanswered is how Stanley has been allowed to do her job for so long when she's so often wrong.
The latest contretemps involved her July 18 appraisal of Walter Cronkite, which was bad even by Stanley's standards.

As Hoyt tells us:

"The Times published an especially embarrassing correction on July 22, fixing seven errors in a single article — an appraisal of Walter Cronkite, the CBS anchorman famed for his meticulous reporting. The newspaper had wrong dates for historic events; gave incorrect information about Cronkite’s work, his colleagues and his program’s ratings; misstated the name of a news agency, and misspelled the name of a satellite."

Hoyt goes on to expertly dissect what went wrong both with Stanley's prose and the editing that allowed it to make it into the paper in its addled state. To her credit, Stanley told Hoyt "This is my fault. There are no excuses."
But what about all of her other mistakes over the years? The Times apparently knew the modus operandi of Stanley, who Hoyt labels a "prolific writer much admired by editors for the intellectual heft of her coverage."

Yet: "Stanley was the cause of so many corrections in 2005 that she was assigned a single copy editor responsible for checking her facts," Hoyt writes. And even though her error rate went down "precipitously" since then, she's now riding near the top of the error chart and will "again get special editing attention."

I've been among those who have flogged Stanley in the past for her errors, her rhetorical excess, and for playing fast and loose with facts that she risked a lawsuit and engendered a rebuke from another Times public editor in 2005.
Yet, somehow she manages to keep her job, when mere mortals like us who toil in the news business would have been out on our butts if we botched copy as often as she did.
Surely, there are other TV critics who could provide "intellectual heft" and also get their facts straight. Yet, Bill Keller and the rest of the Times brass refuse to take off their rose-colored glasses and instead squander precious resources on fact-checking her every word.
When I went to the Times website to look at some of Stanley's recent work, I kept getting an error message that said "This page encountered an error."
Don't I know it.

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