Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Media | Oops

May 16, 2005

Corrections 5/9-5/15

The vagaries of death, foreign porn flicks, illiterate book coverage, and other enlightening and entertaining media corrections.

Carl Bialik

Every week, Gelf combs through media corrections for the funniest and most enlightening. Sometimes journalism reveals more in its mishaps than in its success. Gelf makes mistakes, too, and when we do, we'll disclose them here.

The text in italics is Gelf's; everything else is a direct quote from the publication.

The Vagaries of Death

Virginian-Pilot, May 14: Thomas M. Doshen of Moyock, N.C., whose obituary appeared in Friday's Hampton Roads section, is not dead. The obituary was placed by Doshen's son, Thomas, who pretended to be a funeral director confirming Doshen's death.
Gelf wishes it could tell you more about this one, but the obituary appears to no longer be online and the newspaper inexplicably didn't run a follow-up article about the deception. We'll look into it.

Newsday, May 13: Author Dominique Aury died in 1998 at age 90. A Part 2 review of the movie "Writer of O" on May 4 left the impression that she is alive.
Among the review's unfortunate wording: "Pola Rapaport, the director of this hybrid 'dramatic documentary,' is fortunate to have Aury around to relate this fascinating history. Lucid, wry and so young at heart in her mid-90s that she is surprised to hear her true age ('good for me,' she exclaims), Aury recounts how she wrote the manuscript some 60 years earlier..."

Chicago Tribune, May 14: A story about small town war casualties on April 27 described a fallen solider, Spec. Kyle Brinlee, 21, as having had a biological father who had little to do with him until two years ago. Robert Showler, the biological father, said that he began paying child support for Kyle when he was 10 until he was 18 and tried to visit him as he grew up. And prior to being deployed to Iraq, Kyle lived in Showler's home, Showler said.
The original article stated, "Family members said he was born to teenage parents. His mother died last year as a result of a longtime drug addition, his adoptive father is an addict, and Brinlee's biological father had little to do with him until two years ago, family members and friends say. As a result, Brinlee, who told friends he managed to not let his parents' troubles drag him down, was on his own financially with hopes of going to college."

We Also Regret the Allegation That Politicians Pet Puppies

National Post, May 14: A column that appeared in some editions of yesterday's National Post reported a false allegation that Liberal MP Albina Guarnieri had inquired about the health of Conservative MP Darrel Stinson during a discussion with Independent MP Chuck Cadman. That allegation is unfounded. The Post regrets the error and apologizes for any embarrassment it may have caused.
From the unfortunate way the correction is worded, you might think that an MP somehow was indignant at the suggestion she inquired about an opposition MP's health. Only by checking the original column, mirrored at Free Republic, does it become clear why the correction ran. Columnist John Ivison was airing accusations that Guarnieri intentionally scheduled a non-confidence vote to take advantage of Stinson's health: "It emerged yesterday that Darrel Stinson, one of the Conservatives fighting cancer, has an operation scheduled for Wednesday and will miss the vote the following day. What enraged [Conservative leader Stephen] Harper was his belief that the Liberals knew about this and cynically exploited the information by calling the vote for a time when Stinson was unavailable. One Conservative said the Liberals have been calling around in British Columbia seeking information on Stinson's treatment and that Albina Guarnieri, the Veterans Affairs Minister, raised the issue with Chuck Cadman, the Independent MP who is also fighting cancer. 'Some of the more aggressive tactics used by Martin's people offend [Harper's] sense of fair play,' the Conservative said. For its part, Guarnieri's office denies even discussing Stinson's health with Cadman. But who out there believes that this Liberal government wouldn't boil their grannies down to make glue if it helped them stay in power?" Gelf bets a lot of people believe that, including the grannies.

Liberal Media

Newsday, May 10: A letter from Roger Adelmann published yesterday carried a headline that incorrectly suggested he was criticizing President George W. Bush's Social Security plan.
The letter, headlined "No security in Bush's plan," read as follows: Let me see if I have this straight: The government takes in more money for Social Security than it pays out and subsequently uses this excess to pay for 'other government programs' ['Highway robbery on road to reform,' Opinion, March 21]. Then it issues a bond (IOU) to pay this excess amount back. Has anyone ever reassessed the solvency of Social Security based on the government taking in only the amount that it needs without the excess? A novel approach. Second, the government actually expects the taxpayers to pay back the very money they 'borrowed' from us. Can you imagine the looks you'd get if you borrowed 10 bucks from a friend and then asked that same friend to pay it back for you? It's absolutely criminal."

Liberal College Campuses

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 10: Jim Wooten's Friday column, which criticized an Emory Wheel editorial reprinted in Tuesday's Journal-Constitution, should have noted that the student newspaper published a news story recently about Emory students embarking on careers in the military.
In his column "Thinking Right," Wooten wrote, "It is simply amazing that only three graduates of Emory University chose to enter the military—and more distressing, still, that the student newspaper would regard Teach for America and the Peace Corps as offering 'a chance to make a difference in the world' and not think to include the uniformed services." Which is puzzling, because the editorial said, "But we at the Wheel tip our caps to those students spending the next few years in some of the world's most disadvantaged regions. Teach for America has been the leading employer of Emory graduates for the past three years, and this year is no exception, with 77 applicants, 30 of whom were accepted. Three Emory students are signing a contract for military service, a post-graduation option that few of us even consider." That implies that the editors tip their caps to the three students for "spending the next few years in some of the world's most disadvantaged regions." The news story is neither here nor there; it's Wooten's fundamental point about the newspaper's editorial that reflects wrong thinking and deserved correction.

They Make Other Kinds of Foreign Films?

New York Times, May 15: Because of a transcription error, an article last Sunday in Summer Movies, Part 2 of this section, about the director Don Roos rendered a word incorrectly in his comment about the use of onscreen titles in his film "Happy Endings." He said, "I love foreign films, which have a lot of signage in them"—not "porno films."
Perhaps the film title led the writer astray. The original article stated, "The conventions of Hollywood filmmaking come in for playful treatment in Mr. Roos's films. 'Happy Endings' has a lot of on-screen chapter titles, reminiscent of a silent movie. 'I love porno films, which have a lot of signage in them,' he said. 'It puts it in the audience's face that this is a story and not something real, that this is artifice, so there's not that tension to try and shoot it in a way that looks real.' "

Armageddon Filled In On Tuesday

Slate, May 13: In the May 9 "Today's Blogs," David Wallace-Wells incorrectly attributed a blog post to Atrios. In fact, the post was written by Attaturk, writing on Atrios' blog Eschaton.
These blogger names are getting out of hand, sez Gelf.

The Incredible Shrinking Shrinkage

New York Times, May 10: An article in Business Day yesterday about changes planned for the overseas editions of The Wall Street Journal misstated the loss of space for news content in a 36-page tabloid, as compared with a 24-page broadsheet. The loss would be one-fourth, not one-third.

New York Times, May 14: An article in Business Day on Monday about changes planned for the overseas editions of The Wall Street Journal misstated the loss of news space in the switch to a tabloid from a broadsheet. A correction in this space on Tuesday also misstated the amount. The loss will be 10 percent, not a third or a fourth.
It's always embarrassing to err in a story about the media. For example:

Gelf Magazine, May 10: When referring to Delio's failure to provide source information, Adam Penenberg said, "It is what it is." An earlier version of the article quoted him as saying the nonsense phrase, "Is it what it is." And former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee's name was misspelled in an earlier version of the article.

Illiterate Books Coverage: We Don't Read Good

New York Times, May 12: The Books of The Times column on Monday, about "Against Depression" by Peter D. Kramer, misstated Dr. Kramer's opinion of "Darkness Visible," a book about depression by William Styron. He said he admires it; he does not find anything about it outrageous.

New York Times, May 12: An article in The Arts on Tuesday about two books on John F. Kennedy's inaugural address misstated the position of one regarding the history of the line that begins "Ask not what your country can do for you." The book, "Sounding the Trumpet," by Richard J. Tofel, does not agree with previous assertions by scholars, including Thurston Clarke, the author of "Ask Not," that the phrase echoes one frequently used by a former headmaster at Choate, the prep school Kennedy attended. Seeking to refute that account, Mr. Tofel quotes the author of the school's official history as saying it is "wishful thinking at best."

New York Times, May 12: The Books of The Times review on Friday, about "Becoming Justice Blackmun" by Linda Greenhouse, referred imprecisely to the timing of the arrival of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. While the court voted to omit the traditional "Mr. Justice" in 1980, Justice O'Connor arrived in 1981.

Los Angeles Times, May 13: In Wednesday's Food section, an article on recent books about food said Michael Ruhlman's book "The Soul of a Chef" was about his experiences at the Culinary Institute of America. "The Soul of a Chef" profiles three chefs. Ruhlman's book "The Making of a Chef" is about culinary education.

In Exotic Lands

Chicago Tribune, May 13: In the May 1 Travel section, a story on Brooklyn stated that "the Kramdens lived in Bensonhurst, but for unknown reasons their address was in Canarsie." While the Chauncey Street address used in "The Honeymooners" did not match the Bensonhurst neighborhood in which they supposedly lived, it also was not in Canarsie. Brooklyn's neighborhood borders are inexact, so it could have been either Bedford-Stuyvesant or the neighboring Bushwick.

Full Disclosure

New York Times, May 10: An article on April 28 about Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's pledge to reduce homelessness by two-thirds by 2009 included comments in support of his plan from a longtime advocate for the homeless, Rosanne Haggerty, who is executive director of Common Ground, the city's largest provider of housing with support services. "He is approaching this like it is a solvable problem," she said. "It is the leadership we have longed for all along." After the article appeared, the Coalition for the Homeless, which is critical of the mayor's policies, wrote to The Times's public editor to point out that last year Ms. Haggerty married Dr. Lloyd Sederer, who is Mr. Bloomberg's executive deputy commissioner for mental hygiene and was involved in development of the homeless plan. The reporter was not aware of the relationship, and Ms. Haggerty says her views on the housing issue were formed many years ago. She has often been interviewed on the subject during more than two decades of involvement. Before she founded the nonprofit Common Ground 15 years ago, she worked as a housing consultant and was director of the housing office of Brooklyn Catholic Charities.

Gelf Magazine, May 10: John Seely Brown sits on the technical advisory board of one of the author's client companies, Groxis. That connection to his subject should have been disclosed in the article. The author brought this to our attention this morning, and asked for an update to address any concerns about transparency or perceived conflicts of interest.

Seeing Double

New York Times, May 10: Because of an editing error, an article in Business Day yesterday about the shift of male television viewers from broadcast networks to cable late at night misstated the number of viewers for "Family Guy," an animated comedy that is shown on the Cartoon Network from 11:30 p.m. to midnight, and "The Late Show" on CBS, which starts at the same time. "Family Guy" has about 850,000 viewers, not 425,000; "The Late Show" has 784,000, not 392,000.

As Published, It Was Worth About 1,500 Words

Orlando Sentinel, May 14: A photograph on the front of Thursday's Local & State section, accompanying an article about lawyer Steve Mason, included a background that was digitally extended.

And If 45% Do Neither, That Adds Up to 143%!

Detroit Free Press, May 15: A front-page article Tuesday about investigators trying to reconstruct what Thomas Wellinger did before a fatal May 3 crash in Farmington Hills incorrectly said 98 percent of companies do pre-hire drug testing. It should have said 54.5 percent engage in drug testing for pre-qualified and new hires, and 44.3 percent have programs to test existing employees.

Santorum Troubles

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 14: Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said this week he opposed former President Bill Clinton's nomination of John H. Bingler Jr. for a federal judgeship in Western Pennsylvania because Bingler had not been on a short list of recommended candidates drawn up by an advisory committee that he and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., had appointed. Santorum clarified that when he said he found Bingler "unqualified" for the position for a story published May 2, 2005 he meant only that the committee had not put forward Bingler's name. "I've never sat down and met with John Bingler. I never looked at his resume," Santorum said. "If I say [nominees] weren't qualified, I'm basically saying they weren't qualified by the commission." Bingler was first nominated in 1995 and received the American Bar Association highest rating of "well-qualified."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 13: U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., voted to end the Republican filibuster on Richard Paez, one of President Clinton's judicial nominees, before voting to postpone the up or down vote on his nomination indefinitely. Sally Kalson's column on Wednesday did not make that clear. He also voted in favor of confirming Marsha Berzon's judicial nomination, not against it.

Some Algerians Also Were Shocked

Washington Times, May 9: Due to an editing error, a foreign briefing page article on Morocco on Wednesday incorrectly identified the country that was shocked by the May 16, 2003, suicide attacks in Casablanca. The country was Morocco.
The original article, otherwise about Morocco, stated, "The Casablanca suicide attacks were a shock to Algeria, considered a moderate Arab country where Islam plays a daily role in the lives of citizens. A strong and respected monarchy and good relations with the United States have prevented radicalism from taking root."

That Squeaking Sound

New York Times, May 14: A classical music review on Thursday about the Young Concert Artists benefit gala at Rose Hall misidentified the source of a squeaking noise. It was an audience member's respirator, a representative of Young Concert Artists said, not the air-conditioning system.
No word on whether the audience member would agree his or her respirator sounds like "a mournful bird", as the review stated.

Name Game

Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 13: Because of reporting and editing errors, a story on the front page of the Arts & Life section about weird injuries to athletes and others included a photo of former professional basketball player Jayson Williams with an item on former Chicago Bulls player Jason "Jay" Williams. Jay Williams, whose photo is at right, had his basketball career come to a halt after a motorcycle accident resulted in multiple injuries.
It's not the first time the two NBA players have been confused. But wait, it gets more complicated. Besides Jay and Jayson, there is Jason Williams.

Apparently, 'Ought' Is Out

Minneapolis Star Tribune, : In an article on Page A1 Thursday about attempts to foil drug testing, a quote about the need for a law to forbid the practice was incorrectly attributed to Leah Young of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It was Roslyn Paterson of Additional Testing Inc. who said, "There out to be a law."
The original article rendered the quote, "There ought to be a law."

Spot an interesting correction on television, in a magazine or newspaper, or on a web news site or blog? Or see something that should have been corrected but wasn't? E-mail Gelf with your find.

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.







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Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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