I think it’s pretty striking what a spectacular failure the whole concept of having “ombudsmen” at newspapers has been. Rather than actually doing probing criticism of their employers’ work, they seem to see themselves as glorified PR departments who are supposed to spin for their masters. Consider Clark Hoyt.

The NYT ran a story which said James O’Keefe “made his biggest national splash last year when he dressed up as a pimp and trained his secret camera on counselors with the liberal community group Acorn.”

When it was pointed out to Hoyt that this is false, he replied — with emphasis in the original — that “The story says O’Keefe dressed up as a pimp and trained his hidden camera on Acorn counselors. It does not say he did those two things at the same time.”

Look. The New York Times is a great newspaper. Its writers and editors are familiar with communication in the English language. So is Hoyt. The writers and editors who worked on that story screwed up. It’s bad to screw up. But it’s not the worst thing in the world. To have the error pointed out to you and somehow pretend that the error wasn’t made is, however, unforgivable. Nobody can seriously maintain that the sentence as written doesn’t convey simultaneity.