Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mea Culpa: The Year in Corrections

Cue the trumpets, please.

It’s time for the annual Mea Culpa awards, presented annually by this column to honor the very finest in corrections and retractions to appear in the media.

Why commemorate mistakes?  After all, journalism is a profession that prides itself on accuracy.  But sometimes in the production of countless words spread across countless pages, mistakes are made.  And some are funny.

So once a year we pause long enough to laugh at ourselves.  After all, a little humor is good medicine when you spend your days covering a world that seems to have gone mad.

Consider these oldies but goodies, both personal favorites.

From a Texas newspaper:  “Norma Adams-Wade's June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite.”

Or this from a British tabloid:  “Recent articles in this column may have given the impression that Mr. Sven Goran Eriksson was a greedy, useless, incompetent fool. This was a misunderstanding. Mr. Eriksson is in fact a footballing genius. We are happy to make this clear.”

You get the idea.

Rising about all others this year was the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa.  It seems that in 1863, the paper then known as the Patriot & Union published an editorial about Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Talk about bad reviews.

“We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.”

On the 150th anniversary of the address, the paper issued a retraction.

“In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.”

Not far behind was the New York Times that published this:  “This just in: we made a mistake – 136 years ago. It was in a Jan. 9, 1877 article about a police officer shot by a saloon burglar. The Times called him Officer McDonnell. His name was McDowell…The record is now set straight.”

The Guardian in Great Britain was on a correction roll this year.  Consider:

“The Duchess of Cornwall might have been somewhat surprised to read in an article that she is due to give birth next month. It is the Duchess of Cambridge who is expecting a baby.”

“An article about eating mutton referred to the disastrous effects of the prolonged winter on sheep farmers and their livestock but said ‘resilient mutton are coping well.’ A farmer points out that it is the sheep that are resilient; mutton is the meat that comes from them.

“An interview with Carrie Underwood asked the country music singer if she decided to become a vegetarian after seeing her parents castrate a cow. Unlikely. Only bulls can be castrated.”

“An…item about the enduring – and, for many, irritating – popularity of ‘Gangnam Style,’  the pop song and video by the South Korean rapper Psy, said it was ‘like a virus that is immune to antibiotics.’  A doctor writes to point out that all viruses are immune to antibiotics, which are used to treat bacterial infections.”

“A television listing for the BBC program ‘Wartime Farm’ described it as recalling ‘the acute foot shortage of 1943.’  That might have made an interesting program, but this one was looking at a wartime food shortage.”

The Washington Post came up with this gem:  ‘An Oct. 14 Style article about access to the prison camp for terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, incorrectly referred to Navy Capt. Robert Durand as ‘thickset.’   He should have been described as muscular.”

From The Sun, United Kingdom:  “On 14 December, we published an article listing the ‘laziest’ MPs (members of Parliament) based on their voting record.  We acknowledge that Lucy Powell MP was absent during the concerned voting period due to being on maternity leave.  It was therefore wrong for us to say she is lazy. We have therefore withdrawn the article and apologize to Ms. Powell and others listed.”

From the London Evening Standard: “…we referred to the exhibition of the late Sebastian Horsley’s suits at the Museum of London and the Whoresley show, an exhibition of his pictures at the Outsiders Gallery. By unfortunate error we referred to Rachel Garley, the late Sebastian Horsley’s girlfriend, who arranged the exhibitions, as a prostitute. We accept that Ms. Garley is not and has never been a prostitute”

 From Wired:  “A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston saying ‘anyone with nipples’ instead of ‘anyone with a pulse.’”

From the New York Times:  “An article …about the documentary maker Morgan Spurlock, who has a new film out on the boy band One Direction, misstated the subject of his 2012 movie ‘Mansome.’  It is about male grooming, not Charles Manson.”

From the Wall Street Journal:  “A Bloody Mary recipe…called for 12 ounces of vodka and 36 ounces of tomato juice. The recipe as printed incorrectly reversed the amounts, calling for 36 ounces of vodka and 12 ounces of tomato juice.”

From the Sun:  “In an article on Saturday headlined ‘Flying saucers over British Scientology HQ’, we stated ‘two flat silver discs’ were seen ‘above the Church of Scientology HQ.’  Following a letter from lawyers for the Church, we apologize to any alien lifeforms for linking them to Scientologists.”

The Tampa Bay Times:  “ A Tampa Bay Times reporter not strong in the ways of the force (or Star Wars lore) quoted the event’s moderator, Croix Provence, as asking: ‘Are you ready to find love in all the wrong places?’  What Provence actually said was: ‘Are you ready to find love in Alderaan places?’ She was referring to Princess Leia Organa’s home world, which appeared briefly in the 1977 film. Regret the error, we do.”

From the New York Times  “ An article on Monday about a lawsuit filed against the Internet Movie Database by the actress Junie Hoang  for disclosing her age in an online profile misstated her age.  She is 40, not 41.”

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