Corrections and errors


The Wall Street Journal fails ‘Monsters of Greek Mythology 101′

Someone at the Wall Street Journal can’t tell a Minotaur from a Cyclopes. As a result, the paper published a monstrous correction this week:

The Minotaur is a monster in Greek mythology that is part bull, part human. A travel article in Saturday’s Off Duty section mistakenly called it a one-eyed monster.

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NPR left two words out of the Declaration of Independence, listeners caught mistake


In its annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, NPR’s “Morning Edition” accidentally omitted two words.

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On Monday, hosts Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep apologized to Thomas Jefferson, the original colonies and the whole country for leaving out the words, “establish commerce.”

“The most impressive part of the episode is that sharp-eared listeners caught this omission fairly deep in our founding document,” Montagne said. “If we’d said, ‘When in the course of events,’ many people would have caught it.”

She and Inskeep thought of other well-known documents and what those would look like minus a word or two.

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The Sun corrects: Man complains once or twice a week, not every day

British newspaper The Sun called Marcus Stead “Britain’s biggest whinger” — “whinger” means “whiner” — saying he complained to a local government body every day. It corrected the article:

Mr Stead says that, in fact, the number of complaints is closer to one or two per week. We are happy to put his position on record.

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D.C. gossip columnist’s obit relates corrections she took

The Washington Post

Diana McLellan died Wednesday. The former gossip columnist for The Washington Star, The Washington Post and The Washington Times was 76. Adam Bernstein’s obituary for McLellan includes a quote from former Star columnist Jack Germond, who said she “did not make a fetish of checking out fully every little nugget that came her way.”

For example:

Once, at the Star, she noted a “D. Acheson” on a party guest list and erroneously reported in her column the attendance of statesman Dean Acheson.

In her apology to readers, she wrote that “Ear writhed with anguish to learn that Dean Acheson, whom it had listed among Terrifics whooping it up at a divine party recently, is a teensy bit dead, and has been for ages.”

When she was at the Post, Bernstein writes, McLellan wrote that Jimmy Carter had bugged Blair House, where Ronald Reagan was staying as he prepared to become president. Read more

Brazil Soccer WCup Germany Portugal

NYT corrects: It hasn’t been 924 years since Germany won the World Cup

An important correction rides below David Waldstein’s story about Monday’s Germany-Portugal World Cup match:

An earlier version of this article misstated the last time Germany won the World Cup. It was 1990, not 1090. Read more

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Exhausted businessman

Journalists on their biggest mistakes: ‘I deserved the angry phone call I got for that one’

On Friday, we asked journalists about their big mistakes (and I wrote about one of my own.) That first story included several other stories that readers shared on Facebook this week. Here’s what we heard today through email and Twitter:

Jeff Bercovici, reporter, Forbes

A couple months into the launch of Radar Online in 2006, I got a tip from a friendly source who always had good media/advertising gossip that Apple was going to drop Justin Long from its Mac Guy/PC Guy ad campaign. I called up Long’s rep, who immediately started spinning me: Apple wasn’t “dropping” anybody because Justin’s contract was almost up anyway, etc. I took this for confirmation.

What I didn’t know was this was the first she was hearing of any of it; she was just spinning a reporter out of reflex, I guess.

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What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made?

It’s Friday the 13th. There’s going to be a full moon. And (not really related,) yesterday, I made a big mistake. In quickly aggregating a story about the death of a photojournalist in Iraq, I wrote that the photographer worked for Time. He did not. Time was reporting on it. My editors and I fixed it quickly, tweeted corrections, added one to the story, and did all the things you’re supposed to do when you mess up.

I still felt awful, both about the news itself and my sloppy handling of it. Earlier this week, (this is eerily related,) along with a post about a newspaper that sent the dummy page to Newseum, Poynter asked our readers on Facebook about the worst mistake they’d ever signed off on. Read more


It’s ‘nonsensical’ to shield editors from corrections, Star ombudsman says

Toronto Star | iMediaEthics
| The Baltimore Sun

Toronto Star editor David Henderson inserted a mistake into a story by Bruce Campion-Smith, but the correction only acknowledged the error. “In this age of Twitter transparency does it make sense to withhold critical facts about who is responsible for mistakes?” Star Public Editor Kathy English writes.

It “was Campion-Smith who took flack” for the error on Twitter, English writes, but Star policy says “Publishing the Star is a team effort and published corrections do not ascribe blame within the Star.” English says she has “been on the fence in this debate between reporters and editors.” She continues: Read more

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NYT corrects: Senator wore ‘herringbone, not houndstooth’

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul wore a powder-blue blazer, a pink tie and sunglasses when he hung with Rupert Murdoch at the Kentucky Derby. A description of that blazer in Jason Horowitz’s New York Times story about their man date has been updated, and a correction appended:

An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly the type of suit worn by Mr. Paul. It was herringbone, not houndstooth.

Reached by email, Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy said the correction did not come from either party in the story, but from “an alert reader who commented online.” A moderator alerted the Times’ standards editor, spawning the correction. “We’re lucky at The Times to have very smart, engaged readers,” Murphy said. (Here’s the comment, which like the correction, Alex Seitz-Wald spotted.)

As it happens, Nicholas Morine has written about the differences between the two fabrics, and has some advice for accessorizing with them:

The rule of thumb when pairing clothes bearing a houndstooth pattern to other accessories and garments is to always stay very close to the base colours, or at the very least to pay attention to the accenting pinwheel colours.

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How ‘communicating imperfection’ can increase readers’ trust in journalists

After studying corrections from three newspapers in different parts of the world, Zohar Kampf and Efrat Daskal concluded that journalists don’t “understand the great ethical potential in corrections.”

That sometimes leads to corrections that are “incomprehensible, ambiguous texts, devoid of any significant content or meaning for the readers,” according to their paper, “Communicating Imperfection: The Ethical Principles of News Corrections,” which was published in the journal Communication Theory. Kampf is a professor and Daskal is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of communication and journalism at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In an email exchange, they identified the main barrier to effective correction for journalists and news organizations: a culture of shame around errors.

Newspapers shouldn’t be ashamed of errors or fear them, they said. “They are inevitable part of any human conduct, especially one that is restricted with deadlines. Read more

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