November 14, 2007

No regrets

One of my all-time favorite newspaper corrections, up there with Kerry Wood's labia, is this from a 1993 New York Times.

Because of a transmission error, an interview in the Egos & Ids column on May 16 with Mary Matalin, the former deputy manager of the Bush campaign who is a co-host of a new talk show on CNBC, quoted her incorrectly on the talk show host Rush Limbaugh. She said he was "sui generis," not "sweet, generous."

Journalist Craig Silverman has been tracking notable corrections for sometime at the always-entertaining web site Regret the Error. Now Silverman has a new book by the same title. Not a mere collection of gaffes, the book uses corrections as a jumping off point for a thorough and thoughtful critique of the sad state of the mainstream media in the 21st century, as well as a fascinating history of the very concept of accuracy in the press throughout the centuries. Apparently, the New York Sun was only slightly more reputable in 1835 than it is now!

Despite the fact that I don't actually know Craig Silverman, I'm pleased to recommend this book, and more pleased that he's offered an autographed copy as a prize for next week's Anti-Caption Contest.

Anyone else have a favorite correction?

Posted by Daniel Radosh


One of my two contributions to Regret the Error, from the NY Times:

A review and a cast listing in Weekend yesterday for the Spanish-language film "Not Love, Just Frenzy" misidentified the actress playing a lesbian pimp. She is Bibi Andersen, a Spanish actress, not the Swedish actress Bibi Andersson.

It was the phrase "lesbian pimp" that cracked me up.

The only correction to a correction I've ever seen, made even better by the fact that the original correction was to the crossword puzzle.

The Crossword puzzle on Tuesday had an incorrect clue for 23 Down, "Sen. McCarthy's grp." The answer being sought, HUAC, stands for House Un-American Affairs Committee, a committee of the House of Representatives. Joseph R. McCarthy was ideologically akin to members of the House Committee, but as a Senator he had no direct connection with it.

Correction: August 13, 1999, Friday A correction in this space yesterday of an error in the Crossword puzzle on Tuesday misstated the name of a House committee that was active in the days of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. It was the House Un-American Activities Committee, not "Un-American Affairs." (The puzzle error was in suggesting a closer link than actually existed between the Senator and the committee.)

That's a good one, but corrections to corrections are more common than you might think.

No they're not.

Years ago the Chicago Tribune ran a terse one that said only:

A caption in some editions Friday incorrectly identified pompon squad members as cheerleaders.

I love it because you know the calls to the paper were positively irate.

There's one in this morning's Trib that's similar.

In the Nov. 10 Weekend Section, one of the "WATCHING Shows of Note Today" movies gave the impression that George Kennedy's character in "Cool Hand Luke" was only Luke's nemesis. As the film progressed, he became Luke's ally.

George Kennedy fans just can't let it go, man.

No they're not.

I guess it depends on how common you think they are. Here's one. Here's another. If I could figure out the right way to search for these, I'm sure I'd turn up a lot more.

Oh, and here's a clarification of a correction. Does that count?

OK, the phrase to search for is "a correction on," as in, "a correction on Saturday misstated the show's opening date." That turns up a bunch in the Times alone, including here, here, here, and here. Though in fairness, none of these are as good as Jesse's.

A few years ago the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a long feature for gardeners advising the proper date to plant a long list of flowers and vegetables.

The correction (wording approximate, I didn't save it): "Last week's gardening column was reprinted from the Charlottte Observer. Since Philadelphia is North of Charlotte, if you follow the suggested schedule everything you plant will die."

I think my favorite correction -- I am assuming one was issued -- had to do with the NYT stating in passing that Spike Lee had directed School Daze even though he had never been to college, although in fact Spike had earned a BA from Morehouse College and an MFA from NYU. (It seems that someone had mixed up Spike with his alter ago Mars Blackmon.) Somewhat justifiably, Spike proceeded to leave a message at the NYT offices that was full of words I sincerely hope never violate poor Philip Corbett's 11-year-old son's ears.

There were several of these in the glorious old Columbia Review of Journalism collections Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim and Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge (edited by Gloria Cooper).

I remember one that said -- I'm paraphrasing -- "The band Raging Saint base their music upon born-again Christian principles. They are not, as reported in yesterday's edition, 'unrepentant headbangers'."

I have brought an error to the attention of The New York Times about a half-dozen times since it appeared in 1996, and still no correction.

The most interesting thing about it was that it was a factual error and it appeared on PAGE ONE, in the LEAD STORY, and in the LEAD PARAGRAPH.

See if you can catch the error which the Times editors missed on the front page of their Aug. 13, 1996 issue:

"Republicans opened their 36th annual convention here today with a meticulously choreographed pageant of unity that evoked the glories of their party's past and sought to convince voters that they were sensitive enough to the nation's needs to be trusted not just with Congress but also with the White House."

[ANSWER: The word annual should have been either quadrennial or national.]

I think Chomsky observes somewhere or other that the primary function of the errata section in newspapers is to give the impression that the other 99.99% of the paper is, of course, completely correct.

One of my favorite corrections appeared as one of those short blurbs that The New Yorker occasionally publishes.

The exact wording and source is lost to me, but to paraphrase:

"From the Podunk Press:

Last week's review of Podunk High School's latest stage production contained an erroneous title for the show. It was Les MisÚrables, not Lame Is Rob. The Press regrets the error."

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