At the end of my last post, I said that it would be interesting to see if the Wall Street Journal finally corrects the online version of Brett Stephens's column, "Obama's Envy Problem". As it happens, they have finally done so. I first noticed it when I rechecked the site after my last post late on January 20th. According to a blog post by Paul Krugman titled "Department of Corrections, and Not", the column was still uncorrected when he checked it a few minutes before his posting at 1:40 PM on January 20th. Hence, the Journal may have corrected it shortly after that. I may have initially missed it because they posted the correction at the end of the column. The correction reads as follows:
Corrections & Amplifications
Inflation-adjusted income data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that incomes declined by 2.6% for the bottom quintile between 1979 and 2012, increased by 5.7% for the middle class (third quintile), and by 42% for the top quintile. This column used non-inflation adjusted income figures.
An interesting blog post titled "Bret Stephens and Paul Krugman: What Should a Correction Look Like in the Digital Era?" discusses what an online correction should look like. The Journal did in fact follow the advice not to do a "silent edit" after a column's errors become the basis for other people’s posts. However, there may have been additional reasons that the Journal did not do a silent edit. Once the nominal figures are corrected for inflation, the entire argument put forth by the column pretty much falls apart. For this reason, it might be better if the Journal puts the correction before the column rather than after it. That will save future readers the time and effort of reading it. Coming at the end, the correction should likely begin with the words "Never mind!". Still, it is good to see that the Journal did correct the online column. Hopefully, this might help lead to a policy of doing this on all corrected articles posted by the Journal and other publications. However, that does leave open the question in the title of this post. To what degree do publications have the responsibility to screen their columns and catch these obvious errors to begin with?