Yesterday I asked for help from the FrontBurner Nation. We needed clarification from someone who attended the January 28 given at SMU by Bryan Garner and Justice Antonin Scalia. The Dallas Morning News had quoted Scalia in a way that grossly distorted his view of the Constitution. Problem is, Scalia doesn’t allow recordings of his talks. So we couldn’t just go to the tape to hear what he actually said. Hence my call for help. And help came. Plenty of folks in attendance have confirmed that the DMN made a big mistake. As one sage commenter put it:
It’s a big deal because someone could use the quote in another article, paper, thesis, or book. A major newspaper is a reliable source, right? Then, the truncated phrase gets printed in another reputable publication and so on. So now, even though your professor says s/he doesn’t believe Scalia really said that, the Google provides you with two confirmed sources of the quote in the established press.
Then, interviews/panel discussions with Garner and Scalia could begin with that quote, which results in spending their time explaining why it’s not correct instead of moving on to issues that are of greater importance.
In short, publishing comes with responsibilities because of the ability to multiple and amplify what is stated as fact. If there is a factual error, it is absolutely imperative to attach a correction at the end of the article as soon as possible, and should be left there for all time. Doing so gives more cred to the professionalism of the source than to leaving hanging because someone made a misjudgment and thinks it will blow over.
Also, we’re talking about a Supreme Court justice here. What he says in public becomes an enduring record of his views on the Constitution.
[looks at imaginary wristwatch] Still waiting for the correction, guys.