Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Careless NYT links should raise libel alarms

[Update at 3 p.m. ET: The hyperlinks discussed below have been removed.]

This story on the New York Times Web site, A Detective to the Stars Is Accused of Wiretaps, includes prosecutors' allegations that a Hollywood private detective paid a Pacific Bell worker named Teresa Wright to provide telephone records and help him secretly install wiretaps and that the detective bribed a Beverly Hills police officer, Craig Stevens, 45, to check confidential law enforcement databases. Oddly, the story hyperlinks the names of Wright and Stevens to bios of different people with the same names. The Teresa Wright of the bio is an actress born in 1918 -- unlikely she is now working for Pacific Bell. The Craig Stevens of the bio also was an actor born in 1918 -- meaning he is not a 45-year-old police officer. Is this careless editing or is the NYT using an automated process to link names in stories to names in a database? In either case, careless linking of crime suspects to archived bios should set off newsroom libel alarms.

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