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Mega-culpa greets new Times topper

Correction's prominence signals shift

NEW YORK — The clean slate that the New York Times is hoping to usher in with new executive editor Bill Keller, who was named topper Monday, was sullied by a mea culpa correction on the front page of the Times’ business section.

Unlike most Times corrections, which are wedged onto the second page of the A section and are generally no longer than a paragraph, Monday’s correction was a 2,175-word epistle unearthing inaccuracies in a week-old piece by Lynette Holloway about a loan dispute between Prudential Securities and TVT Records. An editor’s note also ran on the story.

The original article incorrectly reported that TVT prexy Steven Gottlieb would lose control of his company due to a missed $23.5 million loan payment, and described the music exec — who has been involved in more than 40 lawsuits since 1991 — as “litigious.”

The correction specified that Gottlieb was a plaintiff in only a third of those cases and got a Columbia law professor to suggest that, in the record industry, “litigious” is an awfully relative thing.

A Times business editor said the lengthy correction was “unusual,” but that “we have on a number of occasions run story-length corrections.”

The prominence of the piece eerily recalled the 7,165-word mea culpa the Gray Lady issued in May over L’Affaire Blair. Less than a month after that print catharsis, former executive editor Howell Raines was asked by Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to step down.

Keller has more job security, for sure, but the gusto with which the correction was tackled suggests that the Times is taking self-improvement seriously.

As for Holloway suffering the fate of the now unemployed and book-shopping Blair, as of Monday she was still on the Times’ payroll. The two African-American journos were pals at the Times; unlike the whippersnapper Blair, Holloway has been there since 1992.

“We’re looking in to it basically,” a Times editor said. “We’re just getting our hands around it, asking how did it happen?”

Sounds familiar.

(Phil Gallo in Los Angeles contributed to this story.)

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