Gray Lady to Scott Walker: Never mind

posted at 8:31 am on February 16, 2015 by Ed Morrissey

There are newspaper corrections that sincerely intend to repair the record … and then there are New York Times “corrections” to columns that should never have run in the first place. On Friday, the Paper of Record published a Gail Collins essay blaming Scott Walker’s cuts to education funding in Wisconsin for teacher layoffs that took place in 2010. There were only two problems with the column: Scott Walker didn’t take office until 2011, and his public-employee union reforms actually prevented cuts that would have resulted in even more K-12 layoffs. Either of those could have been easily checked, but would have been obvious to anyone who paid the least bit of attention to the controversy in Wisconsin over the last four years.

Sometime yesterday, after the Collins essay — ironically titled “Scott Walker Needs an Eraser” — the New York Times appended this correction to the bottom:

Correction: February 15, 2015 

An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that teacher layoffs in Milwaukee in 2010 happened because Gov. Scott Walker “cut state aid to education.” The layoffs were made by the city’s school system because of a budget shortfall, before Mr. Walker took office in 2011.

That’s an amazingly insufficient correction, coming two days and several portions of credibility late. It treats this as though the date of Walker’s inauguration and the layoffs were incidental to Collins’ column, and were merely overlooked. In fact, that was the entire point of the column. Her argument was that Walker’s record was going to trip him up when it came under scrutiny from the national media, which was a ludicrous point considering how the national news media covered Walker’s fights from the 2011 Fleebagger crisis through his recall election victory in 2013. Perhaps Collins slept through those years of national media scrutiny into Walker’s travails and his fiscal strategy in Wisconsin. Her editor obviously did.

So what changes to the column did the Paper of Record make? They deleted one sentence. Actually, it wasn’t even a sentence, but technically a sentence fragment (emphasized below), which is another indicator of editorial quality at the NYT these days:

All of that came as a distinct surprise to Claudia Felske, a member of the faculty at East Troy High School who actually was named a Wisconsin Teacher of the Year in 2010. In a phone interview, Felske said she still remembers when she got the news at a “surprise pep assembly at my school.” As well as the fact that those layoffs happened because Walker cut state aid to education.

In other words, Collins smeared Walker, and then the NYT discovered that they were the ones that needed an eraser. Maybe it’s the biased record of the “Paper of Record” that should come under scrutiny, and Collins’ contributions that need to be erased.

Update: By the way, I’d bet that everyone involved in this smear has a college degree, too, given the outbreak of credentialism that the media has pushed for the last week. Instapundit — himself a law-school professor — thinks a little dash of autodidact might do the country some good:

All this credentialism means that we should have the best, most efficiently and intelligently run government ever, right? Well, just look around. Anyone who has ever attended a faculty meeting should recognize that more education doesn’t produce better decision makers, and our educated mandarinate doesn’t seem to have done much for the country.

Already people can point to tech pioneers like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as evidence that a college degree isn’t essential to getting ahead. But just as electing America’s first black president had a resonance that no other achievement did, so, perhaps, electing America’s first non-college-grad president in many decades will serve to remind people that a college degree isn’t the be-all and end-all, and that accomplishments and practical skills are, in the end, more important than credentials. It would be educational.

I don’t have any animus toward a college degree; like Walker, I never finished my college education, and he came closer than I did, so I respect those who had the discipline to finish. But a college degree is simply an indication of preparation, not a replacement for accomplishment — except, apparently, at the New York Times.


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