People are human. They make mistakes. And most journalists fall into that category. The human part, I mean.
Story errors are generally ‘corrected’, if at all, in tiny one paragraph increments buried deep in the paper days after the mistake was printed. At least with American mass media newspapers.
Fortunately, (a) sometimes the correction is funnier than the error, and (b) in some developed countries, like Great Britain for example, journalists are less reluctant to make fun of their own foibles when making corrections.
Which leads me to one of those annual lists that I look forward to every year: Crunk’s 2009: The Year in Media Errors and Corrections.
A few examples should clue you in on why this is one of my yearly faves:
News Tribune (Washington State):
“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.”
British Medical Journal:
During the editing of this Review of the Week by Richard Smith (BMJ 2008;337:a2719,doi:10.1136/bmj.a2719), the author’s term “pisshouse” was changed to “pub” in the sentence: “Then, in true British and male style, Hammond met Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, in the pub and did a deal.” However, a pisshouse is apparently a gentleman’s toilet, and (in the author’s social circle at least) the phrase “pisshouse deal” is well known. (It alludes to the tendency of men to make deals while standing side by side and urinating.) In the more genteel confines of the BMJ Editorial Office, however, this term was unknown and a mistake was made in translating it into more standard English. We apologise for any misunderstanding this may have caused.
Because of a reporter’s error, Bill Husted’s column on Page 3B on Sunday contained an item about a tombstone for “Elway the Drug Sniffing Dog.” The tombstone was digitally fabricated for a blog and does not exist.
Not to mention the DeKalb Post hed: “Hooker Named Lay Person of the Year”.
There’s dozens and dozens of ‘em over at this Regret the Error site. And, a shoutout from the author to the internets for ‘calling bullshit’ when the media won’t.
All in all, I am reminded of a French movie that I never saw nor wanted to see (or was it an Edith Piaf song?): ‘Je Ne Regret Riens’.