Bulo Remembers 2009-”Please Accept Our Apologies”

Filed in National by on December 20, 2009

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.

Denver Post:

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’.


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  1. cassandra_m says:

    That Crunk 2009 article is great. And of course appeals to my pet peeve with the media in their slouching “objectivity”. I’m really interested in some of those fact-checking efforts and sites like Politifact did a yeoman’s job during the campaigns. More is needed, though, because as long as the media seems to think that Twitter feeds and Facebook messages are news, they continue to provide lots of disincentives for newsmakers to deal in real information. Jay Rosen has talked about this previously, and sees a media that is more interested in all sides without telling its consumers what counts as correct info and what does not as leaving their audiences completely helpless in an era where there is a ton of media and not much help in sorting through what might be right and what might be wrong. The whole Wafergate thing he cited is a perfect example.

    My favorite correction of the year is that WaPo one:

    A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.

  2. anon says:

    The British corrections are often funnier because the stuff they print is based on much, much thinner sourcing than here in the States, so it’s easier for bad info or a prank to get into print. I read them sitting here in Delaware, and say to myself: “Whaaaaa…???”

    And just a clarification… the article wasn’t Crunk’s, implying by someone or something named Crunk … it was from Regret The Error, whose author deserves a Pulitzer.

    The errors he catalogues during the course of the year are less about story-of-the-day hype and rumor-mongering (Balloon Boy, anyone?), and more about stupid mistakes – bad math, errors of attribution, repeating previously debunked information, misspellings (or spellcheckers gone berserk), or just plain foul-ups. In some cases, they kind of humanize the journalism process.

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