As a business editor, I used to hate getting notes from readers who would point out errors in our copy and ask snidely, "Don't use guys have any fact checkers?" Well, no - newspapers come out every single day of the week, and given the amount of copy that's processed, not to mention the limited number of people processing it, there's no way that all the facts and figures can be verified. If a reporter is lucky, he'll have a sharp editor and copy editor who can spot obvious mistakes. That's the way the daily press operates, for better or worse. Expensively produced monthly magazines, however, are another story. Over the weekend, the glossy WSJ magazine came out with a profile about billionaire Nicholas Berggruen that contained this nugget:
A year ago, Berggruen convened a conclave of some of the biggest names in his rolodex, including former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and George Shultz, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, former governor Gray Davis and the man who ousted him in a recall election, Arnold Schwarzenegger. "You had the recaller and the recalled next to each other and singing the same song," Berggruen says. The group recommended creating a "Rainy Day Fund" requiring the state to set up reserves when tax revenues are running high. Another suggestion: Allow California's gridlocked assembly to approve the state's budget with a simple majority rather than a two-thirds majority. With some arm-twisting from Berggruen's group, the assembly passed both initiatives into law. Tax hikes and budget cuts passed under the simple majority rule have so far helped California to cut its deficit by nearly two-thirds.
There's just one problem, as pointed out by Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters. It's not true. Not even close:
The "rainy day fund" is contained within a ballot measure that was part of the 2010 budget deal, but the Legislature's Democrats have passed a bill that, among other things, would postpone the vote until 2014 (and make no bones that they'd like to kill it altogether). The simple-majority vote wasn't approved by the "assembly," which Meichtry apparently uses as the name for the Legislature, but rather by voters in 2010 in a ballot measure sponsored mostly by public employee unions. And it didn't result in any tax hikes, nor has the state's budget deficit been cut by two-thirds. That's about three strikes and you're out in the accuracy department.
This would be sloppy stuff at a small weekly, much less the WSJ. And at last check, there was no correction on the website. Let's see how long before one is posted.