NY Times 'Corrects' False Article About Pirate Bay Appeal... Still Gets It Wrong

from the fact-checking? dept

It my seem like I'm pushing on this one a bit, but it's because I am honestly surprised that the NY Times got this one so badly wrong, and that they've been so slow to do anything about it. I actually think the NY Times is an excellent overall newspaper, and I'm as surprised as anyone that they'd muck up a story so much -- especially as its editors are hyping how good their "fact checking" is and how every day people just can't compare.

It started on Friday, when we noted that the NY Times was reporting that The Pirate Bay had lost its appeal in court. The only problem? It hadn't. Not even close. It may eventually lose the appeal, but that decision won't come for some time. It's true that other sources (including The Hollywood Reporter article that the NY Times reporter relied on) also got the story slightly screwed up, but that's no excuse for the NY Times to repeat blatantly incorrect information. The error appears to be caused by the confusion about the difference between a district (lower) court and the appeals (higher) court. The appeal is over whether or not the district court judge in the case was biased. So, as a part of that appeal, the district court told the appeals court that, no, its judge was not biased. This is to be expected. Did anyone think that the district court wouldn't defend its judge?

However, many people simply got confused, and when they read that a Stockholm district court said (in the appeals court) that the judge wasn't biased, they assumed that it was a court ruling, not just testimony/a filing from one of the participants. Still, you would think with a story that's received so much attention that the NY Times would check with someone first to make sure such a ruling actually came down.

On Monday, however, some of our readers noted that the NY Times had "updated" or "corrected" its story. However, the really amazing thing? Even after realizing that it got the story wrong, it still hasn't gotten the story right. Instead, they changed the first sentence from: "A Swedish court has denied the appeal of four men convicted of violating copyright law.... " into "A Swedish court has said that the judge who presided over the case of four men convicted of violating copyright law for their involvement in the Pirate Bay, an Internet file-sharing service, was not biased against them."

Okay, that's closer but still wrong. First, the NY Times left the headline as is, saying "Appeal Is Denied in Pirate Bay Case." Then, the current first sentence doesn't make any distinction at all between what the lower court said as a participant in the higher court case and what the higher court will ultimately pronounce as a ruling. In fact, given the headline, nearly everyone would still read that first sentence to say that the court has issued a ruling denying bias. The NY Times also added this correction line that would likely confuse most people, saying: "An earlier version of this report stated that the men's appeal had been denied." But reading the article, it still sounds like the appeal has been denied. Is it that difficult for a big journalistic endeavor like the NY Times to fact check a story? Even when told that the story is wrong, and then going and "correcting" it, they got the story wrong.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    RD, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    Amazing

    Anything to make sure their corporate masters are always seen in the best possible light, right?

    The corruption in big media is absolutely amazing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    Question

    You seem to operating under the assumption that all of these "mistakes" are errors as opposed to a willful attempt to obfuscate information and control public opinion. Is there a reason for this assumption? Which is truly more likely: that the editors of the NYT are REALLY this stupid, or that there is some level of collusion happening here.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Chargone, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Question

    Generally, stupidity is more likely than malice, and ignorance more likely than stupidity.

    in this case however?

    I'd go with 'both' as the probable cause.

    apply that as you will.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    SJ, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 2:20pm

    The media HAS been controlling public opinion for years, However in our new age of information the truth is brought to light as this post about The Pirate Bay folks has demonstrated. Thanks for the update Mike.
    -Sally Speed Cleaning

     

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  5.  
    icon
    minijedimaster (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    Surprised?

    ...I am honestly surprised that the NY Times got this one so badly wrong, and that they've been so slow to do anything about it.

    Why? This is par for the course for most newspapers, especially the NY Times.

     

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  6.  
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    slacker525600 (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 2:43pm

    I just like how they can fail ...

    in such an epic manner, and still claim that anybody not writing for a reputable news outlet is not capable of doing fact checking.

    However, I believe the above comments as to the NYTimes attempt to intentionally distort the news are probably misplaced. There is always a slant, but intentional disinformation is not commonplace in the NYTimes, we aren't talking about fox news anchors whose only defense is that they may be mentally unbalanced to the point that they actually believe the lunacy that they espouse.

    However, I guess that it is possible that the bastions of the copyright industry will start to get more and more perverse in their attempts to defend themselves. Backing an animal into a corner leads to unexpected results.

     

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  7.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 2:56pm

    Re: I just like how they can fail ...

    I'm thinking less distortion as the result of copyright lobbyists and more from corporate plutocrats that eek away at consumer/civil rights in any way they can.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    You think the New York Times is going to print anything that isn't a little bit biased against the Pirate Bay? After all, NYT is owned by a Big Content company, so of COURSE they're going to be biased against the Pirate Bay.

    The Pirate Bay could win their appeal, beat the RIAA, and become legal worldwide, and the NYT would find a way to make it sound like Armageddon was about to happen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 3:46pm

    At least they tried to fix it, unlike Glenn Beck, who is just an ass.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymoose, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 4:01pm

    This is why newspapers have to survive. And points out the main difference between professionals and the silly bloggers stealing all their ad revenue -- the fact checking, depth and analysis of a professional journalist and newspaper editorial staff can't be replicated! It's expensive to do this right.



    (sarcasm, duh)

     

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  11.  
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    Noah Buddy (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 4:15pm

    wrong?

    Now I am in no way supporting NYT. What they said is confusing/misleading, but _technically_ it isn't wrong.

    First, "A Swedish court has said..." This is True. The lower court said it. It wasn't a ruling (as I understand) but they still said it.

    Second, "...The Hollywood Reporter said." - So are they just reporting on what another paper reported on? If so, the sentence is true. BUT it is scary to think of the recursion that could take place when reports report on what other reports say

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    CrushU, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 4:29pm

    Re: wrong?

    Agreed. Not technically inaccurate, but conceivably misleading. They could easily be clearer, they chose not to.

    I'd be more willing to bet on Lazy Editor (changing ONE SENTENCE? sheesh.) more than Purposeful Obfuscation.

     

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  13.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 4:46pm

    Re: Question

    This sort of error doesn't really seem like willful obfuscation. The obfuscation happens in the editorial pages with the misuse of facts, and in the news reports that casually use "theft" to refer to infringement, and that give industry associations a superior (or exclusive) voice in interpreting the mechanics and intent of copyright law.

    Simply reporting the case wrong would be a silly strategy. You are bound to be noticed and embarrassed.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Bettawrekonize, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 5:06pm

    Re: Question

    I'm not denying the possibility that there is some level of collusion going on but people DO make mistakes, even silly ones. This is most likely a mistake. Tell me you never make mistakes.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Re: Question

    BTW, I'm not justifying the mistakes. The NYT should have taken more time to prevent such mistakes. But in this situation they probably valued speed over fact checking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 17th, 2009 @ 6:28am

    Re: Re: Question

    "I'm not denying the possibility that there is some level of collusion going on but people DO make mistakes, even silly ones. This is most likely a mistake. Tell me you never make mistakes."

    Yes, of course I make mistakes. Oops, too much sugar in my coffee, a mistake. But this is their JOB, and getting the story's most basic intersest, in this case the eventual outcome of the appeal/case, is priority numero uno.

    I work in the IT field (don't we all). This isn't spilling sugar in my coffee. This is standing in front of a Dell server, pointing at it, and screaming "Look! An HP server!". Then having someone politiely tell me that it's a Dell server, at which point I continue pointing at it an scream "Fine, It's an IBM server!"

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Jim, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Question

    Is it just possible that the NYT is trying to demonstrate how good of a job a professional journalist will do to correct a mistake?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 17th, 2009 @ 7:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Question

    If so, then they are failing miserably. Their correction left the story confusing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Ben, Jun 17th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    Headline was fixed

    Now reads "Swedish Court Contests Bias Claim in Pirate Bay Case"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Kay, Feb 13th, 2010 @ 9:06am

    The error appears to be caused by the confusion about the difference between a district (lower) court and the appeals (higher) court. The appeal is over whether or not the district court judge in the case was biased. Enzyte

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:19am

    New York should get some sleep, and let Chicago handle the news.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2012 @ 12:25am

    How can this rude thing ever happen?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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