One of the issues that arose during the recent Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak was the distressing tendency for the media to simply report as fact whatever the government had to say. Indeed, as we mentioned here, the reporting on the outbreak improved as the outbreak dragged on primarily because reporters became more skeptical about government pronouncements.
We also pointed out that some media outlets seemed to have gotten lax on fact checking as we mentioned in this piece regarding an Associated Press story that misconstrued the meaning of import statistics.
Now we see that fact checking is out of fashion even at The New York Times.
It ran a piece, 2 Plead Guilty in Operation of Gambling Ring in Bronx. The article focused on the bust of a gambling ring with mob ties. The piece included this excerpt:
Two men with reputed ties to organized crime pleaded guilty on Tuesday to participating in an illegal gambling ring run out of a wholesale produce market at Hunts Point in the Bronx…
Mr. Caggiano, the son-in-law of Dominick Cirillo, the former acting boss of the Genovese family, owned and operated C&S Wholesale Produce Inc., one of the terminal market’s biggest produce wholesalers. The authorities said that he ran the day-to-day operations of the ring, often conducting business from his headquarters at C&S.
The commission began investigating the company in 2004, Mr. Mansfield said. By 2006, after the Manhattan district attorney’s office brought charges against the 11 men, the commission began its own proceedings against C&S, Mr. Mansfield said. In May 2007, the commission expelled C&S from the market, finding that the company “lacked good character, honesty and integrity,” Mr. Mansfield said.
Just one little problem: Not only was C&S Wholesale Produce Inc. not “one of the terminal market’s biggest produce wholesalers,” the company wasn’t even located on the market.
We never heard of this company, and it has nothing to do with C&S Wholesale Grocers, based in Hatfield, Massachusetts. The company is not now and never has been a wholesaler on Hunts Point, so any connection with the market is that some individuals located on the market elected to participate in illegal gambling.
How did the market’s reputation get sullied in this way? Simple, the District Attorney issued a press release and wrote:
CAGGIANO was the owner and operator of C&S Wholesale Produce, Inc., which was one of the larger wholesalers in the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Market…
Nobody at The New York Times bothered to check if this was true or not.
That is not the standard expected of a world-class newspaper.