A Note To Anyone Reading My Recent Piece in THE BAFFLER
Hi, everyone. There’s some chance that some of you have encountered or read — or, dare I hope! — enjoyed my piece in the most recent issue of The Baffler, in print or online. Thank you for supporting The Baffler.
I am writing today because of an editing error we made — an error that none of us take lightly, because it’s bungled an important piece of the work, an instance of sourcing/attribution. These are the most important elements of any piece of writing, because they speak to its foundation and allow readers to journey onward to new authors and new ideas, once they’ve graciously consumed one’s own.
The original draft I submitted looks like this:
As you can see, I set up a lengthy quote from NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, a terrific critic whose work has long informed my own thinking about the media. (His longer piece is here, go read it.)
In the print edition, and in the version that ran online, the first paragraph setting up the quote appears in the right place. However, the blockquoting is wrong, and there is an incorrectly placed sourcing. It looked like this online at one point, and still looks like this in print:
When I saw it online for the first time this week, a bomb went off in my brain immediately, because I instantly knew that this was wrong. And worse, it made it look like two whole paragraphs of Jay’s thoughts were my own. Which is a deadly serious mistake, and a deadly serious offense, were it intended. And there’s no way a reader could surmise anything other than it was an intentional lift.
Let me tell you what has been done about this.
1. First, I immediately contacted my editor at The Baffler, Chris Lehmann, explaining what happened. Chris in turn contacted John Summers and the piece’s original copyeditor to start repairing this online, and checking the print edition to see if the mistake was in the print edition as well.
2. The next thing I did was make contact with Jay to obtain his personal email address.
3. While this was going on, the folks at the Baffler were uncovering where the mistake was made and what could be done about it.
4. Once they had a plan in place, I wrote to Jay and explained what was going on, where the mistake was made, and how it got made in the first place. I then explained what we were going to do to rectify the situation:
Here is what is being done:—The editors are working to fix the online edition with all deliberate speed.—A correction will be run in the online edition—They will further inspect the print edition to see if the error occurred in print—Should the error exist in the print edition, they will append a note to the next print issue of THE BAFFLERNeedless to say, I am embarrassed by this, because chances are this just eluded my inspection of the copy-edited draft. I don’t take any of this lightly. The lengthy quote of yours was very germane to the larger discussion in my BAFFLER piece and I felt you explained it a lot better than I could.
I should have been thrice as eagle-eyed on this section as we copy-edited and fact-checked the draft, and I wasn’t. This is the lesson I’ve learned from this and ensuring that this kind of thing never happens again is what I shall do going forward.I bear responsibility for this, and I want to apologize to you for this, and ensure you that this wreckage is being addressed just as fully and forthrightly as it can be.I am very sorry that this happened. Please understand that it was not intentional, and certainly not done in malice or the spirit of cheating. It was my mistake, pure and simple, an act of incompetent casualness on my part, and it shall not be repeated.
Baffler EIC John Summers followed on with an apology of his own.
Dear Mr. Rosen,
I believe you may know about the error we introduced into Jason Linkins’ "Noise from Nowhere," an article in our current issue in which Jason quoted you. Jason submitted perfect copy; but in formatting his article for publication, we forgot to tag each of the three paragraphs in this quotation individually, and one of them slipped out of the block.
I’m also sorry to report that we didn’t notice the error until Jason pointed it out to us about 45 minutes ago; we immediately corrected it online, where, thanks to the lords and masters of the internet, most readers will encounter the article. The error remains, unfortunately, in our printed edition. We will publish a correction and apology in the next issue.
Please let me know if there’s anything more we can do. Again, our apologies.
Jay, very kindly, accepted these apologies. I am extraordinarily grateful to him for that.
John, also very kindly, let me off the hook in his apology, but there’s no doubt that I bear a share of responsibility for this. I had the opportunity to inspect the copy-edited draft and was clearly very inattentive when I did. Had I been more conscientious, this would never have happened.
I take this sort of thing very seriously. However, in this instance, my character was found to be wanting. For that, I apologize to you.
Feel free to contact me with any further questions by email or twitter.