Saturday, November 15, 2008

This Correction Makes No Sense. Please Correct.

Maybe it's too early in the morning, but this "correction" in today's Times makes The Nytpicker's head hurt. What do the Stevens and Clemens investigations have to do with each other? Does the Times think we actually ought to go read the original, flawed story again just to comprehend the correction? It's Saturday. We're busy. Somebody please explain this, and save us the trouble:

An article on Friday about the federal perjury investigation of Roger Clemens misidentified a law enforcement office connected to another high-profile inquiry, one involving Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. It is the Department of Justice’s criminal division in Washington, not the separate United States attorney’s office for the District of Columbia.


: A look at yesterday's original article by investigative reporter Michael S. Schmidt -- the online version has been scrubbed to eliminate the corrected mistake -- reveals that Schmidt's error was, in fact, fairly substantial, and not properly addressed by the Times's narrow correction today.

The Friday piece, which led that day's sports section, focused on the apparent fact that Jeff Novitzky -- the federal agent at the center of Major League Baseball's ongoing steroids scandal -- has been moved to the periphery of the pending Roger Clemens case. Schmidt's story addressed the seeming lack of cooperation between federal prosecutors in northen California -- where Novitzky lives -- and in Washington, which is building the case against Clemens.

Here's an excerpt from Schmidt's original story, no longer available on the Times website. The section in boldface is the part that has been removed:

It is not clear why the Northern California prosecutors and Novitzky have played a reduced role in the Clemens investigation over the last eight months. The District of Columbia office showed a willingness to work with other federal authorities in another recent high-profile case, that one involving Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.

In that instance, a federal prosecutor from Alaska was brought to Washington to assist in the trial, which ended in a verdict that Stevens violated federal ethics laws.
Officials from the District of Columbia and the Northern California offices declined to comment on the Clemens investigation.

In its original context, the mistake becomes more meaningful. Schmidt was trying to question the reasons for the reticence of California prosecutors to participate in the D.C. investigation. But misidentifying the Department of Justice's criminal division as the U.S. Attorney's office wasn't his only mistake; so was his thesis that there was a discrepancy between the types of cooperation among prosecutors. Or at least so it would seem by the Times's decision to excise all reference to the Stevens case in the current version of the piece.

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