Dec. 10, 2012

I’ve been surprised – naively, I suppose – by the refusal of professional journals such as Nursing ResearchChild Abuse & Neglect and Relational Child & Youth Care Practice to retract articles that supported the moral panic of ritual abuse in day cares.

The editors’ common justification is that they published no “specific errors,” such as citing the Little Rascals case by name. This seems to me a narrow and disingenuous view. These articles are wrong to the bone, as wrong as if they had been based on cold fusion or the Protocols of Zion.

Here’s what the Charlotte Observer, my former employer, had to say in 2006 about how it had contributed to the infamous Wilmington coup d’etat of 1898:

“An apology is inadequate to atone for the Observer’s role in promoting the white supremacist campaign. But an apology is due….

“We apologize to the black citizens and their descendants whose rights and interests we disregarded, and to all North Carolinians, whose trust we betrayed by our failure to fairly report the news and to stand firmly against injustice.”

Newspapers, as “the first rough draft of history,” enjoy and deserve some leeway in reaching their standards of accuracy. But the editors at the Observer (and other participating North Carolina dailies) didn’t quibble over “specific errors.” They addressed the root defect in their coverage. Is it too much to expect the same from the editors of professional journals?