December 21, 2015

Expecting infallibility from journalists is unrealistic. Granted, sometimes, corrections are entirely unwarranted, like this one from NPR.

Clarification May 21, 2015
In a previous correction on this post, we corrected something that was actually correct. So we have corrected that correction. It had to do with Celsius temperatures.

Some corrections are so brilliant they are nearly worth the mistakes that generated them, while others indicate serious organizational flaws and risk having terrible consequences.

Following a tradition started by “Regret the Error” author Craig Silverman, whose list on BuzzFeed Canada you should definitely read, we looked back at some of the most notable corrections of 2015 (Poynter articles included).

The funny

Add this correction on The New York Times to the many great things Adele’s “Hello” has done for humanity.

The New Music column on Thursday, which included a review of Adele’s album “25,” misstated part of a lyric from the song “Hello.” Adele sings “Hello from the other siiiiiide, I must have called a thousand tiiiiiiimes”; “Hello from the outsiiiiiide” appears later in the song.

Some pretty basic safety tips in this correction by The Guardian to a Jamie Oliver recipe.

In a piece by Jamie Oliver in January’s Do Something magazine, distributed with this Saturday’s paper (How to … make toast, page 34), the chef says he has in the past “turned the toaster on its side, put cheese on bread and slid it in so it toasts on one side and melts on the other”. We strongly recommend that readers do not attempt to do the same, as using a toaster on its side is a fire hazard.

January 9th was overall not a good day for Guardian-reading foodies; in an unrelated article a celeriac spaghetti recipe forgot to mention a key ingredient.

A recipe for celeriac spaghetti with beef and carrot meatballs in this Saturday’s Cook supplement (Trade away with the fairies, page 8) neglected to list the celeriac in the ingredients list. 2kg will be needed, about two whole celeriac.

Often errors are caused by words that are almost homophones as with this Texas Tribune correction…

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz saying that President Obama could have “told the American people that he hurt them.” Cruz said Obama could have “told the American people that he heard them.”

…or this article on an esteemed journalism website which had to be corrected for confusing a proper noun with a common one.

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Jessica Sawyer as the news manager for Alabama Media Group’s mobile division. She’s actually the news manager for Alabama Media Group’s Mobile (Alabama) division.

Hashtags are also increasingly wreaking havoc, as words are mashed together and sentences look like other ones, as with this correction on the Globe and Mail.

A Wednesday news story on Donald Trump incorrectly quoted a Hillary Clinton tweet as saying “Love Trump’s Hate.” In fact, the tweet was “love trumps hate.”

Geographical proximity may have led The New York Times to misidentify a biblical sea.

Correction: April 4, 2015
David Brooks’s column on Friday misidentified the sea that God parted in the Book of Exodus. It is the Red Sea, not the Dead Sea.

And when the exact same name is used for two entirely different organizations, then it gets really confusing (Tampa Bay Times).

We got our Dukes confused. Duke Energy, not Duke University, is obviously the utility represented on the board of directors of Enterprise Florida. Because of an editing error, a column published Friday listed the university instead of the utility.

In a very meta moment, The New York Times confused an actor with a character he plays.

Correction: December 11, 2015 An earlier version of this article misidentified one of the guests at Ms. Leifer and Ms. Wolf’s wedding reception. He is Garry Shandling — not Larry Sanders, a character played by Mr. Shandling.

Napoleon was not roaming the battlefields of Europe in March of this year, NPR had to admit.

Correction June 18, 2015
An earlier version of this story stated that Napoleon called the Breakfast Conference on June 18, 2015. In fact, it was 1815.

Atheist applicants for the position of Pope were disappointed by this correction in The Times of London.

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.

The weird

Aftenposten, a leading daily in Norway, published by mistake a spoof obituary of Santa Claus. (More background on the story in this BBC article and in this tweet by an Aftenposten journalist who replied to my inquiry).


This correction by The Texas Tribune begs the question of why anyone felt the need to specify what shoes Rick Perry was wearing.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Rick Perry wearing orthopedic shoes at the Iowa State Fair.

The Guardian misused Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 5.42.32 PM but was all Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 5.41.47 PM about it so it published a correction.

An illustration of the most frequently tweeted emojis of 2015 mistakenly repeated the No 1 emoji (“tears of joy”) in the No 3 slot, which should have been “crying hard” (Tears of joy to the world, 8 December, page 3, G2).

The Economist nearly doubled Hillary Clinton’s odds with bookies.

Correction: In a leader last week (“What does Hillary stand for?” April 11th), we said that Paddy Power gave Mrs Clinton an improbable 91% chance of capturing the White House in 2016. In fact the Irish bookmaker offers much more plausible odds of about 48%. Sorry.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer apologized for erroneously identifying a green sweater-clad elderly woman as Nancy Reagan during the Republican debate in the Reagan library.

Star Wars coverage has had its share of mistakes, with Poynter at a loss for vowels.

Correction: An earlier version of this post noted that Alderaan has two As.
Clearly it has three, two of them are together. Corrected it has been.

The NYT went further by misnaming the iconic space vessel in the George Lucas saga.

A report in the In Transit column last Sunday about new “Star Wars” theme park attractions misstated part of the name of a starship from the “Star Wars” films. It is the Millennium Falcon, not the Millennium Force.

101 years after publishing a piece, the LA Times realized it was one day off in an obituary.

April 21, 2015: The original version of this obituary, published Dec. 25, 1914, incorrectly reported John Muir’s birthdate as April 28, 1838. He was born April 21, 1838.

My auto-correct doesn’t offer this in place of “investigate” but perhaps I’m not creative enough with my vocabulary (more on this typo on Poynter).

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 11.04.04 AM

The elaborate

The National Geographic made a pretty awkward correction to a story about naming hurricanes.

Explore | Name, Name, Go Away: The World Meteorological Organization, which chooses the names given to hurricanes, has stopped using several names it identified as potentially controversial. In an article titled “Name, Name, Go Away” in our October issue, three of those names were listed without the following essential context:

  • The male name Adolph was dropped to prevent linking a storm with Adolf Hitler.
  • The female name Isis was originally included in reference to the Egyptian goddess but was dropped after the rise of the Islamic State.
  • The male name Israel was dropped to avoid associating a destructive weather event with the state of Israel.

Without context, the list in the article appeared to imply some connection or equivalence among the names. There is neither connection nor equivalence, and any such implication was wholly unintended. National Geographic’s editors regret that this unfortunate wording was not caught before print publication; it has been corrected in digital editions.

The Guardian published a The Rivals-inspired correction

Malapropism corner: “Inside the Burnham camp the anger was palatable…” (Intervention that ends in disarray – but begins a vital party debate, 14 July, page 4).

In another occasion, The Guardian published the wrong price on its front page, potentially leading to some of its customers being overcharged.

Some early editions of the Guardian for Friday 13 February carried an incorrect cover price. We sincerely apologise to any readers who may have been overcharged, and invite them to contact our missing sections helpline on 0800 839 100 with their details.

NPR had to confirm that a day on Earth was indeed 24 hours long.

Correction April 14, 2015
This post originally stated that it takes the Earth 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds to complete one rotation and that we round up to 24-hour days. But that additional 3 minutes, 56 seconds takes actually into account Earth’s movement around the sun.

The Financial Times went into detail to explain the why and how of a big mistake. Explaining the genesis of a mistake helps rebuild trust with readers.

On Thursday we published an incorrect story on that stated the European Central Bank had confounded expectations by deciding to hold interest rates rather than cut them. The story was published a few minutes before the decision to cut rates was announced.
The story was wrong and should not have been published. The article was one of two pre-written stories — covering different possible decisions — which had been prepared in advance of the announcement. Due to an editing error it was published when it should not have been. Automated feeds meant that the initial error was compounded by being simultaneously published on Twitter.
The FT deeply regrets this serious mistake and will immediately be reviewing its publication and workflow processes to ensure such an error cannot happen again. We apologise to all our readers.

A Colorado news station apologized on air for a mistake in its fact-checking. As CJR has noted when writing about it, “that’s a full-throated correction.”
Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 11.28.19 AM

The terrible

That’s a pretty big numerical difference (The Verge).

Correction 11:30am ET: A previous version of this post stated that the Kano was used by 30 million kids. That was false. It’s now used by roughly 40,000 kids. The piece has been updated to reflect the error.

AFP shared a photo of a downed jet that it claimed was a Russian fighter jet downed by Turkish forces “only to discover later that it had been taken at another time, in another location.” Fake images are particularly hard to retract but at least AFP published a retraction in a way that would avoid further diffusion.


Fox News apologized on air “to the people of France and England” for claiming there were no-go zones for non-Muslims in these countries.

This correction by The Sun doesn’t feel like much of a correction for what seems to have been a story flipped (two-thirds of foreigners in the UK are in work, not out of it).

IN an article “For every hard-working foreigner there are two claiming benefits, says report” (July 21) we stated that migrants on benefits outnumber hard-workers two-to-one. Migration Watch actually said while about 70 per cent of migrants are in work, those with stronger economic characteristics outnumber those with weaker ones two-to-one.

The Daily Express got slammed by the Independent Press Standards Organization for a grossly inaccurate report on their front page. They had to run the correction on the front page, below is an excerpt:

The Complaints Committee found that the article’s claims that English “is starting to die out” in schools and that English was “hardly heard at all” in some schools were completely unsupported by the data the newspaper had cited. These claims distorted the data cited by the newspaper, which did not include any information about the frequency with which English was spoken in schools, by either pupils or teachers.

This was a particularly concerning case because the inaccuracies had been repeated throughout the entire article, including prominently in the front-page sub-headline, and because they were central to the report, on a matter of significant importance. The newspaper’s defence that the article was not misleading when read as a whole did not demonstrate that the newspaper had taken care to report the data accurately.

Perhaps the worst media mistake of 2015 has been the one that splashed the Photoshopped selfie of an innocent Sikh journalist from Toronto as a possible “mastermind” of the Paris attacks. More on the story here, here and here. But for the purposes of this article it is sufficient to say that a maliciously edited photo was taken as good content from media outlets around the world. The story made the front page of La Razón in Spain and was still on the Twitter account of Italian all-news channel Sky TG24 (followers: two million) weeks after it had been debunked. What is worse is that while it has been since removed, I have not seen from these two sources and many more a full correction explaining the mistake and apologizing.


Indeed an article on Il Fatto Quotidiano, an Italian newspaper, still has the photo with the title “Paris attacks: ‘here is one of the terrorists.’ Isis publishes the photograph of a presumed terrorist without a name”. The story starts off as if the headline were true, but has merely been integrated with a correction at the very end of the final paragraph. The translation is mine:

This photo was posted on one of the social networks that Isis jihadists prefer. We know for sure it was posted by Khilafah News, which functions as a press office of sorts for Isis. On the same social network this morning Khilafah News had posted a message in which Isis claimed the paternity of the Paris attacks. But this is a fake, as demonstrated by the person in the photo itself a few hours later. The man, a video game critic, posted the original in which the explosive belt, the Koran and other objects do not feature.

Of those I’ve encountered, this is by far the worst correction to the worst media error of 2015.

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Alexios Mantzarlis joined Poynter to lead the International Fact-Checking Network in September of 2015. In this capacity he writes about and advocates for fact-checking. He…
Alexios Mantzarlis

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