The very existence of endeavors like the New York Times Public Editor column constitutes a victory for responsible information creation and dissemination. The topic of this particular edition also serves as a potent reminder that information doesn’t just happen; it is the result of a manufacturing process.
For decades, The Times has had clear policies warning reporters and editors to be careful about using ethnic, racial and religious labels. Only when “pertinent,” its stylebook says.
Making the judgment call of what is pertinent, though, is easier said than done. Even when the judgment call can be justified, errors of execution can provoke strong responses from readers, as two recent examples illustrate.