Craig Silverman tracks accuracy, errors & the craft of verification.

WSJ mistakenly turned Carol Bartz into a man:

Yahoo Inc.’s ex-CEO Carol Bartz was incorrectly referred to as Mr. Bartz on second reference rather than Ms. Bartz in a Marketplace article Wednesday.

Wall Street Journal


Thursday, Feb. 09, 2012

Audit Commission

New campaign offers tips to help journalists get their numbers straight

Thanks to a campaign from the U.K.’s Royal Statistical Society, journalists now have access to a great collection of tips to help them report numbers accurately.

Former journalist David Walker is the director of Getstats, the Society’s campaign to improve statistical literacy, and he has set part of his sights on newsrooms.

David Walker

The organization recently released 12 “rules of thumb for journalists” to help them do a better job handling numbers. The tips for “numbers hygiene” include “sniff around” and ask, “out of how many?” also has a related story that offers additional tips to help journalists avoid five common pitfalls related to numbers.

In keeping with the spirit of numeracy, I wrote a previous column that shared advice from Sarah Cohen, author of the book, “Numbers in the Newsroom: Using Math and Statistics in News.”

I also followed up with Walker to learn more about the motivation behind Getstats and to tease out a few more tips from him. Read more


Flint Journal/ apologizes for ‘completely off base’ speculation in report

A sports reporter for The Flint Journal and has issued an apology and correction after he included unfounded speculation in a Tuesday report about a local basketball league.

Here’s the apology from reporter Ross Maghielse:

In a story that was posted this morning, “Tuesday’s Flint-area prep basketball forecast,” I mentioned that there was “speculation” that the Flint Metro League was “disbanding.” Although it was stated as speculation and not fact, it was completely off base and should not have been included.

The information that it came from was confused with changes that already took place with the Big 9 conference and Saginaw Valley along with potential changes with a different league not associated with the Flint area or the Flint Metro League.

As a new reporter to the Flint area, I confused the leagues and information into a small snippet of a larger post. The story has been edited with a correction and retraction embedded in it.

Read more
1 Comment

Wednesday, Feb. 08, 2012

5 tips for getting photo IDs right

Mistaken identifications are among the most common photo errors I see corrected by the media. People in photos have either been mislabeled internally or by a photo or wire service, or someone hasn’t checked the image to verify it’s showing who they think it does.

A case in point: this Monday correction in The Independent

In our print edition of Friday 3 February we ran a photograph of an actor named David Bradley under the heading “stars who have slipped.” We very much regret that we used a photograph of the wrong David Bradley and that the David Bradley we pictured is still enjoying a highly successful career, including playing Argus Filch, the caretaker in the Harry Potter films.

This is a bit tricky, as the photo was in fact of an actor named David Bradley — it was just the wrong David Bradley.

Then there are other photo mistakes that on their face seem less clear and forgivable. Read more


Tuesday, Feb. 07, 2012


After plagiarism, Journal Register papers test journalists’ knowledge of attribution, plagiarism

In the wake of a second incident of plagiarism in less than three months, the editorial leadership at the Journal Register Company’s Connecticut papers looked for a way to send a message about the unacceptability of theft and to reinforce the ethics of linking and attribution.

The first incident occurred in October, and at the time the company’s director of community engagement, Steve Buttry, published two blog posts about attribution and plagiarism to communicate the proper standards. (Disclosure: Buttry and I delivered a paid training session together for Georgetown University, and I’ve been an unpaid speaker for other classes of his.)

So when another incident occurred last month, the question was what to do next?

Buttry and JRC’s group editor for its Connecticut papers, Matt DeRienzo, decided on something a little unorthodox: a quiz.

Buttry said in an email that a quiz made sense because it “would have everyone on record as understanding how to attribute. Read more

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An email exchange between writer John D’Agata and Believer intern Jim Fingal, who was given the job of fact checking D’Agata’s article:

JIM FINGAL: Hi, John. I’m the intern who’s been assigned to fact-check your article. I was hoping you could clarify how you determined that there are thirty-four strip clubs in the city while the source you’re using says thirty-one.

JOHN D’AGATA: Hi, Jim. I think maybe there’s some sort of miscommunication, because the “article,” as you call it, is fine. It shouldn’t need a fact-checker. I have taken some liberties in the essay here and there, but none of them are harmful. I’m not sure it’s going to be worth your time to fact-check this.

An excerpt of the new book 'The Lifespan of a Fact,' published by Harper's magazine


U.K. paper corrects an amusing typo:

Our profile of author John Lanchester last week (“A keen eye for the state of the nation”, page 36) said his grandfather “had been interred by the Japanese.” That would be interned.

The Observer (U.K.)


The Sun (U.K.) corrects a rather bizarre claim about a soccer manager:

An article on January 30 incorrectly stated that Graham Westley, Manager of Preston North End FC, had sent a bizarre late night text telling players to prepare for a 9/11 style terror attack and encouraging reaction to it.

We accept that Mr Westley sent no such text to players or otherwise. We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Mr Westley and Preston North End FC.

The Sun (Thanks Tabloid Watch!)


A photo mixup at The Daily Mirror killed the wrong man:

DUE to an error in yesterday’s report concerning the fatal shooting of Alan McNally, the photograph on page 1 purporting to depict the late Alan McNally was in fact of another man who is not involved in any of the matters referred to in the report.

We apologise for the error and for any confusion caused as a result.

We are happy to correct the position.

The Daily Mirror (U.K.)


Friday, Feb. 03, 2012

Chicago’s Daily Herald corrected a report that a man was still using drugs:

To clarify a photo caption in Tuesday’s edition, Michelle Hines’ son is in rehab for a drug addiction and not currently using drugs.

Daily Herald