When is a newspaper correction too trivial — or too old — to come across as anything but “goofy”?
Kansas City Star public editor Derek Donovan riffed on the subject in a Sunday column after a reader called to laugh and asked him why a particular correction was necessary. The error: a photo running in a December story about vintage toys meant to illustrate a Hot Wheels 1968 Camaro was actually a 1967 Mustang.
(Reached by email, Donovan told Poynter the Web version of the story had already expired by the time he confirmed details of the mistake with Mattel. Stories at KansasCity.com are generally live for about a month, he said.)
Whether to run a correction or not usually comes down to one bottom-line question: Did the mistake fundamentally impede or change the reader’s comprehension of what was published?
That’s why a typo that, for instance, omits a letter in sports agate doesn’t require the A2 correction treatment that the ’67 Mustang got, he wrote.
We’re fond of goofy errors at Poynter. Among corrections Craig Silverman has recently highlighted at Regret the Error: confusion over the band the xx and placeholder text; whether a drug lord was found sleeping with his secretary or with his wife; and misattributing a prediction of a 21st-century ‘goat war.’
And if the Star’s December story seems too ancient to require a correction, The New York Times set the record straight on a rather old error recently, too: It misspelled Solomon Northup’s name 161 years ago.