Editorial board's rash of problems threatens to erode public confidence *

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On Sunday, the Chronicle ran an editorial on NASA that was rife with errors. NASA’s Johnson Space Center Director Mike Coats issued a same-day press release detailing some of those errors. Chron.com commenters have pointed out the errors. At least one emailer pointed out the errors to the Chron brain trust (and blind copied me). Clearly, the Chronicle has been made aware of the errors.

Nevertheless, as Matt Bramanti notes on Lone Star Times, the Chronicle has yet to issue a correction or to run the response from Mike Coats.

While we agree wtih Bramanti’s criticism of the editorial board’s disregard for truth, it’s not exactly the first time it’s happened. This month, even. Here’s a nice line from an August 18 editorial:

Michigan University’s College of Aviation, in conjunction with OBAP, has partnered with five historically black colleges to create aviation fellowships and scholarships for minority students.

There are two significant problems with that line. First, Michigan’s flagship comprehensive state university refers to itself as the University of Michigan, not Michigan University. Second, and much more problematic, the University of Michigan does not have a College of Aviation. The editorial should have referred to Western Michigan University, which has a well regarded College of Aviation and participates in the program described by the editorial.

I informed relevant Chronicle staffers of this error when the editorial appeared, and the response was that the editorial was written by a part-time writer, and that it was referred to that writer for correction. Maybe the writer hasn’t come back to work, because the error still has not been corrected.

It’s not clear why Jeff Cohen‘s editorial board doesn’t promptly publish corrections when errors are pointed out. Then again, Cohen is the same diminutive editor who let his old friend Rick Casey engage in plagiarism with no repercussions shortly after moving to the Chronicle, so maybe it’s not that surprising. It’s certainly not world-class journalism, though.

* I couldn’t help myself. If the title doesn’t make sense, check out the headline here.

UPDATE (08-28-2007): A correction has been issued for one (and only one) of the errors in the NASA editorial:

An editorial on Page E2 Sunday, concerning NASA’s recent problems, cited an explosion at a rocket motor test site in California. The explosion took place at a private company unrelated to NASA.

Michigan University still has not been corrected.

UPDATE (08-29-2007): The newspaper finally corrected the “Michigan University” gaffe:

An editorial on Page B8 on Aug. 18 misidentified the university whose College of Aviation was offering scholarships for aspiring black pilots. It was Western Michigan University.

There, that wasn’t so hard!

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