By David Edenden
I suggest for your April 25 edition of Reliable Sources, you invite the current editor of Slate, David Plotz and former Slate alumni Michael Kinsley, Franklin Foer to discuss the 13th anniversary of this minor mistake of April 27th 1997 and why , as of today, April 9th, it has yet to be corrected. This minor issue can be used to discuss the very structure of journalism in today's environment focusing on the three issues below
By Franklin Foer
Slate, Sunday, April 27, 1997
Macedonia (-3.2 percent growth; 50 percent private. Democracy relatively strong: free elections, though minority groups claim oppression.) Though Macedonia avoided the Balkan War, ethnic tensions and instability are a problem. Last year, the country's liberal, pro-West president was seriously injured in a car-bomb attack.
A Greek minority demands that Macedonia, with its ethnically Albanian majority, be absorbed into Greece.
THE LAST LINE WITH 15 WORDS, HAD THREE ERRORS, IT SHOULD BE REPLACED BY:
An Albanian minority (23%) demands that Macedonia, with its ethnic Macedonian majority (67%) be changed from a unitary state into a "confederation" of two states with their respective ethnic majorities.
Ethnic Macedonians fear this would be the first step to the partition of Macedonia and the creation of a "Greater Albania".
Greece demands that Macedonia change the name of its country, its Macedonian language and Macedonian Orthodox Church because Greeks feels that "Macedonian history" belongs to Greek heritage and there would be increased pressure for greater human rights for its own small ethnic Macedonian minority.
I immediately sent a correction to the writer, Franklin Foer (who is currently editor of "The New Republic"), and then editor Michael Kinsley, to no avail. In the past 13 years, I have made a nuisance of myself sending letters to almost everyone at Slate including "Corrections", "Kaus Files", "Explainer" etc, Plus I posted this letter to Alt.News.Macedonia.
I no longer receive confirmation emails from Slate, so I think that I must be blocked by the "spam" filter. Hre are my suggestions.
A few years ago, Howard you were amazed to learn that during the "Jason Blair affair" no one, who was quoted by Blair, called the New York Times to report that Blair's articles were complete fabrications, and that they had never met the man. Their reason was that it would do no good to contact the New York Times, because nothing would be done. I believe that your comment, at the time, was "incredible".
The "comment section" of news sites should be the vehicle by which corrections can be directly communicated to the author. The title of the corrected story should have, in brackets and in bold, an indicator that this has story has been corrected. You are then takrn to the original story, which would no longer be searchable. Sending it to "Corrections" as Slate does, seems not to be working, at least for me. A consensus among leading publication would be helpful.
2. General Journalist vs Journalist/Scholar/Stringer
It is painfully obvious to me that young Franklin Foer (22 at the time), did not have the expertise to write such a story. In the same way that a high school teacher needs to be expert in a particular subject, a journalist must be expert in the subject that the article explores. The era of a "general journalist" is dead. Lets bury it. This model for this old breed is Christopher Hitchens (here) and Robert Kaplan, (here) (here) both of whom have written howlers on the Balkans in general and Macedonian in particular ... yet stubbornly and militantly ... refuse to correct them.
Long live the "journalist/scholar/stringer" (the name says it all!).The model for this new bread is Slate's Lee Smith and Salon's Juan Cole, both discussing "Greater Middle East "issues.
3. Implications for Journalism Schools
All undergraduate shools of journalsim need to close. If I were an editor of Slate today, I would only hire someone with a post graduate degree in journalism, with a undergraduae degree in a specialized field such as Law, Political Science, Business, etc. The day of the English/Journalism graduates are over. Stick a fork in them ... the're done!
Thank you, and don't be a stranger.