Friday, January 08, 2010

Pratfalls in the Press

Every year about this time, I collect the best of the worst of print journalism, corrections of mistakes that have been made in the gathering of news.

This is not intended to mock the profession that has kept us fed and clothed for many years. Instead it is a recognition that, despite what some think, journalists are human and when you start each day with a blank slate, filling it at breakneck speed will result in slipups.

Add the fact that newsroom staffs and budgets have been cut to the bone over the last few years and it's no surprise that accuracy has sometimes suffered.

Besides, nobody finds it more amusing than the practitioners of the craft (unless, of course, it was your mistake).

Here, then, are a sampling of the corrections that made us smile, if not groan. They have been collected from the Internet, from contributors and from Craig Silverman, who runs a website called Regret the Error.

In the thick of things: In a recipe for salsa published recently, one of the ingredients was misstated, due to an error. The correct ingredients is 2 tsp. of cilantro instead of 2 tsp. of cement. (Publication unknown).

Off the track: Due to incorrect information received from the clerk of courts office, Diane K. Merchant, 38, was incorrectly listed as being fined for prostitution in Wednesday's paper. The charge should have been failure to stop at a railroad crossing. (Publication unknown).

Choke hold: A photo caption on Tuesday's Page A8 said a student was performing the Heimlich maneuver on a dummy. The student was actually playing around and pretending to choke the dummy. (Washington News Tribune).

Dumb and dumber: A headline on page one of the Toronto Sun yesterday was both inaccurate and misleading. In fact, as the story reported, the mother of a boy involved in a high school fight in Keswick said her son "said something stupid." She did not say nor imply he was stupid. The Sun regrets the error and apologizes to the boy and his family. (Toronto Sun).

Cat calls: A reply to a question in Notes & Queries yesterday recommended purchasing lion and tiger urine from Chester Zoo to stop neighborhood cats from urinating in a vegetable patch. Chester Zoo would like to forestall requests for its big cats' urine: It asks us to make clear that it does not in fact sell either tiger or lion urine. Many years ago the zoo sold elephant dung, but it no longer does. (Guardian, U.K.)

No not me: An article on Aug. 2 about older alumni who have been helped by university career counselors referred imprecisely to comments by a 1990 graduate of Lehigh University who lost his job in February when his company was downsized, and a correction in this space last Sunday misspelled his surname. As the article correctly noted, he is David Monson, not Munson, and he was speaking generally - not about himself - when he said that newly unemployed people sometimes mope around the house in sweatpants. (New York Times).

Living dread: An article on May 25, 2007, `The Cult Guru Who Stole My Son' made claims that William Van Gordon was a `brainwashed zombie' and Edo Shonin brainwashed him and that the Buddhist retreat which they ran was a cult. We accept this is untrue. We apologize to both men for the contrary impression given. (Daily Mail, U.K.)

Just kidding: In my column on Aug. 22 I suggested that Sharon Osbourne was an unemployed, drug-addled, unfit mum with a litter of feral kids. This was not intended to be taken literally. I fully accept she is none of these things and sincerely apologize to Sharon and her family for my unacceptable comments. (The Sun, U.K.)

Ho Sweet Ho: In our entry on Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days, we referred to a Prairie Ho Companion; we meant a Prairie Home Companion. This has been corrected. (The Guardian, U.K.)

And last but not least: The Ottawa Citizen and Southam News wish to apologize for our apology to Mark Steyn, published Oct. 22. In correcting the incorrect statements about Mr. Steyn published Oct. 15, we incorrectly published the incorrect correction. We accept and regret that our original regrets were unacceptable ... (Ottawa Citizen and Southam News).

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