July 20, 2015

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). Pluto did not, and cannot, take a selfie. Please issue a correction.

Thank you,

The correction, Sullivan said, is unlikely to materialize because the context of the sentence refers to humans taking a selfie by remote. Per the science desk, the sentence does not assert that the Kuiper Belt planetoid is snapping a photo of itself:

Not long after this, the corrections desk forwarded his request to the science desk, and an editor, Sarah Graham, replied, explaining that the sentence “was not meant to refer directly to the new pictures of Pluto (hence the cosmic modifier).” Mr. Overbye, she said, “was writing metaphorically about humankind having built a spacecraft that from three billion miles away, turned back to look at Earth.”

Oh well. There’s still plenty of corrections — issued by The New York Times and otherwise — to keep us entertained.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

More News

Back to News