The New York Times published a lengthy editors’ note late Monday that went a step further toward owning up to its mistaken story about a criminal probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account.
The note came after the newspaper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote a column calling the story a “mess” and suggesting the newspaper wasn’t transparent enough about revisions to the original story.
Two corrections had been added to the original story between its publication late Thursday and Saturday. The first noted that the story had been changed to make it clear that Clinton herself was not the subject of an alleged request for a criminal inquiry, and the second noted that the Justice Department said the request for a probe into Clinton’s private email account wasn’t “criminal” in nature after all. The editors’ note stated that both corrections should have been made sooner.
But the newspaper continued to lay the blame for the mistaken information at the feet of its reporters’ sources, as executive editor Dean Baquet had in an interview with Sullivan, the public editor. The editors’ note emphasized that the initial story on the alleged request for a criminal probe “was based on multiple high-level government sources.”
“As other news organizations followed up on The Times’s report, the Justice Department confirmed to them that a ‘criminal’ investigation had been requested,” the editors’ note read. “Officials also gave that description again to Times reporters who were rechecking their initial story.”
“But later in the day, the Justice Department and the inspectors general said that the request was not a ‘criminal referral’ but rather a ‘security referral,’ meant to alert the F.B.I. about a potential mishandling of classified information,” the note continued. “It was not clear how the discrepancy arose.”