Sunday, October 02, 2005

Why is it SO difficult for so many to say, "we messed up?" It's not a big deal; we all make mistakes. And whether it's Dell providing lousy computer service, a politician rapidly switching positions or a NYT columnist getting the facts wrong, just say "whoops" and briefly (but thoroughly) explain yourself.

No rational person is going to hold this against you. No one but the most strident partisan will mock your admission. In fact, the vast majority of your so-called enemies will be forced into respecting your forthrightness.

Enter the NY Times editorial page. Widely read econo-columnist Paul Krugman has apparently made a series of errors -- some large, some minor -- about various issues of the day. In one particular column, he apparently misrepresented crucial facts about the tangled 2000 Florida recount. But instead of just saying "whoops" and moving on, he has offered a series of tortured "yeah maybe, but" semi-retractions which hide any correction behind Byzantine technicalities and lashing out at perceived foes.

His obstinance was so extraordinary, that NYT Public Editor Byron Calame publically rebuked both Krugman and his editor, Gail Collins. In response, Collins today offered more ornate spins, dodges and pirouettes to avoid that apparently painful term, "whoops."

On the Decision '08 blog (linked above), I jokingly offered an inducement to Krugman:
Maybe getting a correction out of Krugman would be easier if the NY Times put it behind another, more expensive subscription wall. Call it TimesSuperSelect — for just $69.95, you get not only TimesSelect, but you also have access to the weekly “For the Record” corrections warehouse. The offending columnist will then get a $4.95 kickback from each subscriber every time he admits a whopper, boner, howler or gaffe. Press honesty is at a premium; Shouldn’t the pay structure reflect that?

Jokes aside, this whole situation reminded me of the obstinance by Dell when called out by Jeff Jarvis. Whether you run a company or a column, just say "whoops" and move on. You'll be happier, wealthier and have more time to avoid making another mistake.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Steve Miller said...

Speaking of whoopses, Bill Bennet may have some serious problems with his latest "indescression". Where as I respect Bill Bennet, he too is currently suffering from the inability to utter that whoops word in regards to his comments on his show last week. I believe I have heard enough of his show to place the comments in context, and that an open and complete apology is in order.

9:14 PM  
Blogger inkling said...

Steve:

I've tried to listen to Bennett's show before but it puts me to sleep. And I agree that statement he made wasn't only inappropriate and ugly -- it was just bizarre. He should apologize profusely, then take a couple weeks off to figure out what the heck he's doing on radio in the first place.

10:29 PM  

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