New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan called for "systemic change" at the Times in light of an error made in the newspaper's Sunday story about San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik.
The weekend story reported that Malik had passed background checks as she talked openly on social media about jihad. The implication was that Malik's posts had been in the public eye, something FBI director James Comey refuted Wednesday. The writings, in fact, occurred in private messages and email.
Writing in the Public Editor's Journal, Sullivan called the error a "bad one" and said it "involved a failure of sufficient skepticism at every level of the reporting and editing process."
A faulty Times article on San Bernardino and social media shows need for more skepticism & systemic change. My post: https://t.co/q4MrG7OY3m— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) December 18, 2015
Sullivan assailed the Times for relying on anonymous government sources for reporting and said she confronted Executive Editor Dean Banquet and his deputies with questions.
“This was a really big mistake,” Baquet told her. “And more than anything since I’ve become editor it does make me think we need to do something about how we handle anonymous sources.”
He added, "This was a system failure that we have to fix."
Sullivan suggested the Times "fix its overuse of unnamed government sources" and "slow down the reporting and editing process." She said that it was "not acceptable" two front-page stories have needed corrections in recent months.
"If this isn’t a red alert, I don’t know what will be," Sullivan concluded.
Sullivan's column came the same day the Times was scrutinized for quietly scrubbing a remark Obama made to columnists on his initial response to the California terror attack.
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