The New York Times public editor (readers’ representative), Daniel Okrent, wrote a thoughtful column (“The Privileges of Opinion, the Obligations of Fact,” March 28, 2004) clarifying the rights and limits of opinion columnists and the responsibility of the newspapers that publish them.
Mr. Okrent indicates that while “opinion is inherently unfair” by dint of the fact that opinion columnists, unlike news reporters, can choose which facts to present and which to withhold to make their points, anything that is indisputably inaccurate must be corrected. And newspapers should make public their corrections policy.
Mr. Okrent indeed prompted the New York Times to publicly lay out their policy on op-ed corrections.
While columnists are allowed the freedom to express their opinions, they are required to be factually accurate and a columnist who makes an error is expected to promptly correct it, with the correction to be placed at the end of a subsequent column.
Mr. Okrent’s interesting and timely commentary is below.