New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan on Monday said that the paper’s editors should have noted changes in wording to its story on former Port Authority official David Wildstein’s claim that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knew about the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as they happened last year.
A Friday article initially said that Wildstein “had evidence to prove” that Christie knew about the closures but later changed the wording to “evidence exists,” and did not note the change in the article.
“This change was more than a nuance. Acknowledging that could have taken the form of a straightforward correction,” Sullivan wrote. “The change also could have been explained in an editor’s note or could even have been acknowledged in a sentence in the body of the article.”
Metro editor Wendell Jamieson defended the lack of a correction to Sullivan, arguing that editors made “dozens” of changes to the story as it evolved, and couldn’t possibly change every single one. He also said that none of the changes altered the “essential truth of the story.”
When Sullivan challenged Jamieson, however, he conceded that editors could have noted the wording tweak.
“I don’t believe there’s a correctible error in that initial lead,” he told Sullivan. “But should there have been an editor’s note? Perhaps. I regret not suggesting that.”
Christie allies criticized Wildstein for his claims and the Times for not acknowledging the change to the story.