Fact-Checking Davis’ Book
* Your April 13 front page reports that “Judge Finds Clinton in Contempt,” that “NATO Shows Unity as Air Campaign Widens” and that Mike Davis’ book, “Ecology of Fear,” has “minor” errors in its footnotes (“Seer of L.A. or Blinded by Its Light?”). Why is this last story on the front page? Errors are an inescapable pitfall of publishing. The New York Times runs a daily corrections column; in 1998 that newspaper ran 2,130 corrections. You found only 15 in “Ecology of Fear”--a 484-page book with 831 footnotes.
If you put the same resources into checking footnotes in other books, you would find similar “minor” errors. So how come The Times focused on social critic Davis instead of, say, on a voice of the establishment like Henry Kissinger?
* I applaud The Times for the fact-checking you have done regarding the most recent Davis book, “Ecology of Fear.” I speak as a fan of Davis’ earlier and brilliant book, “City of Quartz.” It is unfortunate to find an author to whom I have given so much credence to be so cavalier with his facts. Though his heart may be in the right place (a genuine concern for the survival and living standard of Los Angeles) he has done his mission a great disservice.
I would also be interested in knowing if “City of Quartz” was checked for facts.
* While city boosters may despise him, Davis--errors of fact and judgment notwithstanding--is probably the most important social critic and historian of Southern California since Carey McWilliams.
ANDREW G. WOOD
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