Sunday, December 28, 2014

To Err is Hilarious

It is customary at year’s end for this column to salute the hard-working men and women of journalism.

By publishing their mistakes.

This isn’t masochism or self-loathing on our part. Rather, it shows our ability to laugh at ourselves. After all, newsgathering consists of filling a newspaper or broadcast or web site each day starting with a blank slate. Make it interesting, make it lively, make it important. And do it on tight deadlines.

Mistakes get made but in proportion to the number of stories produced each day, the numbers are minuscule. 

With that kind of batting average, an occasional whiff is often more funny than fatal.
In the past, this column has discovered a few corrections that can without hesitation be considered classics.

Some 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.”

Or this from the New York Times: An earlier version of this article misidentified the number of years E.B. White wrote for The New Yorker. It was five decades, not centuries.”

Against that background, we now present the winners of our not-so-coveted 2014 Mia Culpa awards:

“In our July issue we wrongly described Tina Cutler as a journalist. In fact she is a practitioner of vibrational energy medicine.”  --- Marie Claire magazine.

“Christopher Hill never lived in Germany. He was born in Berkeley and raised in Danville. Hill began his art career in 1995 at age 24, not 27, in San Jose, not Graz, Austria.

“Hill prefers the term “art gallery,” rather than “art studio.” His daughter is not an accomplished equestrian, rather she is an avid one.

“The Chamber of Commerce did not name Hill “The Opinionator” and Hill never said, ‘I suppose I am.’

“Hill said his interest in St. Helena is community-wide, not just personal.

“He never said, ‘We offer much more than vineyard scenes. And we’re very informal – no suits or ties.’

“‘The Crushers’ is a St. Helena men’s softball team, which Hill sponsors and manages. ‘The Shockers’ is a Napa Junior Girls softball team, which he also sponsors.”  --- Napa Valley Register

“An earlier version of this column was published in error. That version included what purported to be an interview that Kanye West gave to a Chicago radio station in which he compared his own derrière to that of his wife, Kim Kardashian. Mr. West’s quotes were taken, without attribution, from the satirical website The Daily Currant. There is no radio station WGYN in Chicago; the interview was fictitious, and should not have been included in the column.” --- New York Times

“An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Tennis was arrested for allegedly making “fraudulent purposes.” Clearly that is neither a crime nor a statement that makes any sense. She was arrested for allegedly making fraudulent purchases.” --- Huffington Post

“An earlier version of this article described bald eagles and ospreys incorrectly. They eat fish, and their poop is white; they do not eat berries and excrete purple feces. (Other birds, like American robins, Eurasian starlings and cedar waxwings, do).”  --- New York Times

“The Minotaur is a monster in Greek mythology that is part bull, part human. A travel article in Saturday’s Off Duty section mistakenly called it a one-eyed monster.”  --- Wall Street Journal

“A review in the June 29 Arts & Books section of the book “Big Little Man” said that author Alex Tizon is in his 60s. He is 54. Also, the review described Tizon as an avid consumer of porn, but the book says the viewing was for research. It also described Tizon’s friend’s embarrassment about the size of his endowment, whereas the book states that ‘he liked being average.’”  --- Los Angeles Times.

“We carried a story headlined ‘Boss Swings in to the Golf Inn After Club Snag’ in our issue of Friday, March 20.

“In it, we referred to William Scott’s breach of the peace charge.  We mistakenly said this was in relation to an argument over drugs.

“It was in fact an argument over dogs.  We apologize for this.”  --- Ayrshire Post  (U.K.)

“This post originally quoted photographer Tom Sanders as saying it takes him five years to get on the dance floor. It takes him five beers.”  Slate magazine.

“Articles on April 25 and 26 about Pope Benedict XVI said that St. Peter was the founder of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the church, Jesus was the founder.” --- Washington Post

“An agency story about the Vatican recruiting a hawk to protect the Pope’s doves after two were killed by a crow and a seagull was deleted from our website because it was discovered to have been an April fools’ joke.”  The Guardian

“The Argus would like to apologize for suggesting that the director of the Brighton Science Festival believes the ‘21st century will be remembered for a terrible war between mankind and goats.’

“That contention, as well as another goat-obsessed comment, actually came in the form of a question submitted by a reader.” --- Argus, Brighton, England

“In a leader last month (Of Bongs and Bureaucrats) we said that The Economist first proposed legalizing drugs in 1993. In fact we argued for it in a cover story in 1988. Who says drug use doesn’t damage long-term memory?” --- The Economist

“An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Bugs Bunny’s most notorious enemy is Porky Pig. While the two are known to frequently squabble, often in the public eye, they are in fact good friends.”  --- Harretz (Israel)

“In the caption for a picture showing one of the 10 largest stars found so far (by Earth-dwellers), we erred in saying that it was ‘One of the 10 biggest objects yet to be found in the solar system.’ As a number of readers pointed out, there is only one star in the solar system: the sun.” --- The Guardian.

“An article on Monday about a recall election facing Colorado lawmakers who supported gun-control legislation referred incorrectly to one of the Republican challengers expected to face John Morse, the State Senate president, on the ballot. The candidate, Bernie Herpin, is a former city councilman, not an author of erotic novels.”  --- New York Times

An earlier version of a tweet in this column misstated the name of its writer. As her Twitter handle correctly noted, she is Jillian C. York, not Chillian J. Yikes!  --- New York Times.

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