There’s a difference between big and inconsequential errors. Most require correction, regardless of the severity. But even when it’s arguable whether something is truly wrong or not, it’s best to err on the side of making the fix.
A recent editorial about culpability in the Volkswagen emissions test fraud contained this sentence:
“If the EPA had not been there to catch VW lying, who would have?”
It’s true that the EPA ordered a recall to address the issue on Sept. 18. But is it really correct to say they were there “to catch” the company?
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Numerous other stories have explained the timeline in the case. It was actually a group of researchers from West Virginia University, working from a tip from an environmental group, who uncovered the fact that the automaker’s cars emitted far more pollutants than reported or allowed. They took their work to the EPA, which then acted.
Does the sentence in the original editorial go into great detail about the guilt-and-bust trail? No. But it still implies the EPA did the work to find the deception, and so it needs to be corrected.
The new sentence in the editorial reads: “If the EPA had not acted on a tip from West Virginia University researchers that VW was lying, who would have?” There will be a correction on Page A-2 of the print edition Tuesday as well.
The point of the editorial remains the same — now buttressed by better facts. I was pleased that the editorial board immediately agreed to correcting it.