Regret the Error

Craig Silverman reports on trends and issues regarding media accuracy and the discipline of verification.Stories about errors, corrections, fact checking and verification

Newspaper corrects: The Pope was Catholic

The (London) Times

In its daily roundup of corrections and clarifications, The Times made an important distinction about the religion of former Pope John Paul II (née Karol Wojtyla), whom it said in an earlier column was not an acolyte of the church he led:

Karol Wojtyla was referred to in Saturday’s Credo column as “the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years”. This should, of course, have read “non-Italian”. We apologise for the error.

In other scripture-related errors The New York Times earlier this year confused which sea Moses parted. It was, of course, the Red Sea. Read more


Newspaper apologizes for racist Confederate flag ad

The Roanoke Times

The (Lexington, Virginia) News-Gazette has apologized after a surge of reader criticism after running a prejudicial ad that makes vague reference to controversy stirred up by the “black race” in connection with the Confederate flag.

The ad, which was purchased by area man Raymond Agnor this month to espouse his views on a number of tangentially related topics, has prompted readers to draw up a petition calling on the paper to apologize.

“About the confederate flag,” the ad reads. “Because of all the trouble the democrats and black race are causing, I place this ad. No black people or democrats are allowed on my property until further notice.”

The ad then veers abruptly into concerns about the national debt, social security and taxes. Read more


NYT public editor: Pluto selfie correction probably not forthcoming

The New York Times

Alas, what might’ve been the greatest correction to grace the pages of The New York Times will probably never come to pass.

That’s according to the latest post from New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, who writes that the paper’s science desk is unlikely to issue a correction in response to a query from Maxim Deputy Editor Jason Feifer, who quibbled with a recent Times story on New Horizons’ trip to Pluto. Here’s his gripe, which was retweeted more than 3,000 times:


I have been gripped by the coverage of Pluto this week, and thank The Times for its comprehensive reporting. However, I have spotted an error: In Dennis Overbye’s Wednesday story, “A Window Into Pluto, and Hopes of Opening Other Doors,” he writes: “It was an extraordinary time for a cosmic selfie, a historic day in space and here on earth.” A selfie is a photo that someone takes of themselves, not simply a photo of someone (or something).

Read more

The Boston Globe publishes typo of the day

The Boston Globe on Friday afternoon tweeted a typo that will propel you into the weekend on a cloud of, well…read it for yourself:

The Globe corrected the typo, but several readers still thought the error was a gas.

Read more

Diane Rehm apologizes (again) for asking Bernie Sanders about dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship

You’d think that one abject apology was enough.

But national radio host Diane Rehm apologized Thursday for the second straight day for relying on an erroneous Facebook posting to wrongly suggest that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.

Rehm had asked him about that, as if it were a fact, during a Wednesday interview. He quickly corrected her and his spokesman later said there were no hard feelings.

So Rehm, whose WAMU-FM Washington, D.C. show is distributed by NPR, apologized to listeners Wednesday. And, then, again, on Thursday morning:

“I want to make a correction, ” she said after the first hour of Thursday’s two-hour show came to an end.

“On yesterday’s show I raised the issue of dual citizenship with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Read more


Academic research: ‘Huge growth’ in fact checking by the media

As some wring their hands about a decline in newsroom resources and quality, there’s a “huge growth” in fact checking in the coverage of politics, according to a new academic study.

Several thousand papers were delivered at the Midwest Political Science Association conference, including, “Where and Why Do Journalists Fact-Check.” The paper contends that reporters now fact-check politicians more than ever. One co-author describes it as an “explosion” that coincides with an obvious growth in the coverage of national politics.

“Every single elite organization engages in visible fact checking of politics,” Lucas Graves of the University of Wisconsin told a small audience on Thursday as he sketched the study’s preliminary findings.

“There are scores of dedicated fact-checking outlets that didn’t exist even five years ago.”

He cited the first dedicated fact-checking site as Spinsanity, launched in 2001 by one of his co-authors, Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College. Read more

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Plagiarism questions at Chicago paper owned by a state legislator

Better Government Association

Illinois state Sen. Steven M. Landek (D)

Illinois state Sen. Steven M. Landek (D)

The Better Government Association (BGA), a Chicago-based investigative journalism nonprofit, has accused the editors of the Desplaines Valley News of plagiarizing numerous stories in a series of unsigned editorials. The co-owners of the paper are Illinois state Sen. Steven M. Landek (D) and former Chicago Sun-Times editorial page editor Mark Hornung, who resigned from that position in 1995 after being accused of plagiarism.

In the article published yesterday, reporters with the BGA claimed that 14 editorials published in the suburban weekly contained similar or identical language found in stories published by other news outlets around the country, including The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and seven additional journals and web sites. Read more


How the Rouhani Meter fact-checks Iran’s president from 6,000 miles away

This article was republished with permission by the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Daniel Carp is a senior researcher at Duke University.

The capital of Iran’s fact-checking movement is not in Tehran, but Toronto.

When Farhad Souzanchi wanted to promote government accountability in his home country of Iran and track the campaign promises of President Hassan Rouhani, his only choice was to open an office in Canada, more than 6,000 miles away. For the last 18 months, the Rouhani Meter — a unique fact-checking website because it is run remotely from another country — has broken new ground in fact-checking journalism.

Since Hassan Rouhani was sworn in as Iran’s seventh president Aug. 3, 2013, Souzanchi and has team have been tracking and updating a list of promises made during Rouhani’s campaign and the first 100 days of presidency. Read more


Quartz experiment: Shades of gray distinguish facts from hearsay

As of Sunday night, there remained many unknown elements about the over-the-top subscription service that HBO will launch this year. CEO Richard Plepler confirmed back in October that the premium cable channel would offer the service in 2015. But what would it be called, when would it launch, and on what device(s)?

Quartz writer Adam Epstein wanted to do a story that summarized what was confirmed, likely to be true and as yet unknown about the HBO service. The challenge was to mix information with three different levels of confirmation in a way that readers could understand, while not ruining the flow of the article.

“I had the idea for the piece after browsing Reddit and seeing that despite there being a ton of interest in the upcoming service, there was still some misinformation floating around,” Epstein said by email. Read more


UK Guardian retracts key parts of Whisper stories

Wall Street Journal | Guardian

Last October, the UK Guardian ran a contentious story alleging that managers of Whisper, a mobile app that is designed to enable users to send messages anonymously, learned that the paper was investigating them and rewrote their terms of service and privacy policies, in possible violation of federal law. Today, the newspaper issued a “clarification” to its original story, writing that the company’s managers had in fact rewrote its terms of service two months earlier, before the newspaper began its investigation.

Guardian reporters Paul Lewis and Dominic Rushe claimed that Whisper was encouraging its users to share personal data with the company with the tacit expectation that Whisper would keep this information private, when in fact it was sharing some information with the United States Department of Defense. Read more

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