Media | Oops

January 31, 2005

Our favorite corrections, 1/24-28

When newspapers make mistakes, part uno.


Every week, Gelf combs through newspaper 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.

Gary, David ... what's the difference?

L.A. Times, 1/25: In a Sports article Sunday about the Redlands men's basketball team, it was reported that Redlands Coach Gary Smith is a Boston native and that, when asked whether his basketball philosophy was influenced by the Celtics, he said, "No, the Bruins." The quote should have been attributed to Grinnell (Iowa) College Coach David Arseneault, who is a Boston native.

[How did this happen? Unclear. The original article didn't include any quotes from Arseneault, the coach who pioneered Redlands' wild, run-and-gun style.]

2001 Iraq war prediction proves premature

L.A. Times, 1/28: Max Boot's Thursday column gave an incorrect date for a New Yorker article by Hersh. The article—quoting a U.S. intelligence official as saying about the invasion of Iraq, "It's a stalemate now"—was published April 7, 2003, not April 7, 2001.

[It's always unfortunate when a column questioning another journalist's credibility contains an error. To boot, some Romenesko letter-writers make a convincing case that Boot's take-down of Hersh is overstated and, in some respects, inaccurate.]

Too edgy for the papers

Chicago Tribune, Jan. 26: The "Out of the Gene Pool" strip has been omitted from today's Tempo comics pages. It continues a story line about perfume with a play on words. Upon review, editors decided that this strip did not meet our standards of taste.

[The strip's perfume story line began Monday, when the perfume bottles' were mislabeled "sheet," not "sweet." That strip contained the clever quip, "Oh, crud, I think we're stuck with all of this 'sheet.' " Tuesday: "Do either of you want to smell like 'sheet'? I have free samples." And "I'm not taking any more 'sheet' from you!" That was all fine, but Wednesday's apparently was just too much for the Trib: "Just relax as the 'sheet' hits the fan" and "Get that 'sheet' away from me." And thousands of Trib readers were saved from indecency.]

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Jan. 24: A paragraph in questionable taste was removed from the original version of this column at this point.

[The offending paragraph, from a Norman Chad column syndicated by the Washington Post: "At the NFC championship game, a half-frozen 10-year-old sang the national anthem before the Falcons-Eagles game. I hate to nitpick, but some adult was whispering the words into his ear! It felt like the presidential debates all over again."
Comedic genius it ain't, but taste isn't the problem here. Apparently it's not OK to reference the still-unresolved, relatively trivial yet entertaining controversy over whether Bush was getting tips during the debate via wireless. That's just crossing the line. But this opening from the Chad column is just fine: "Boy, it was cold out there yesterday. It was the type of cold that drives some men to drink, others to divorce. I stayed sober and concentrated on the only relationship in my life I'll never leave—the National Football League."]

Brevity is the soul of error

Washington Post, Jan. 26: A Week in Review article in some Jan. 23 editions that quoted D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams criticizing people who came to demonstrate against President Bush last week should have made it clear that he was referring to what he described as inappropriate displays along the inaugural parade route, including obscene gestures and vulgarities shouted in front of children.

[Including that context, from the Post's original brief item the day after Inauguration Day, would have made the original item less punchy: "Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) praised the performance of the city's police force, as well as that of officers who came to Washington to provide security for Thursday's presidential inauguration. The crowds were policed by 13,000 federal, state and local officers and troops, including about 1,500 officers from the D.C. force. Williams also took a swipe at people who came to protest against President Bush, saying, 'It really does piss me off that people are so selfish that they can't give him this one day.' "]

Exactly Backward

Slate, Jan. 28: In a Jan. 25 "Sports Nut," Stephen Rodrick originally stated that Stephen A. Smith once said that "substance without style doesn't mean a damn thing." He actually said the reverse, that "style without substance doesn't mean a damn thing."

[This wouldn't be as bad if Rodrick hadn't used the quote as a kicker for his piece about TV ruining sportswriting. This was what he originally wrote: "Stephen A. Smith, while judging ESPN's Dream Job alongside Paige, once made the observation that 'substance without style doesn't mean a damn thing.' As usual, he got it exactly backward." But that was exactly backward, according to the Philadelphia Magazine profile of Smith from which the quote apparently was derived.
Slate's awkward rewrite: Stephen A. Smith, while judging ESPN's Dream Job alongside Paige, once made the observation that "style without substance doesn't mean a damn thing." Too bad he doesn't practice what he preaches.]

Big Fact Czech Tourists

New York Times, Jan. 28: An International Journal article from Rio de Janeiro on Jan. 13 described a Brazilian government study's finding that the country faced an obesity epidemic, with 40 percent of the adult population overweight. The article talked about the anomaly of obesity in a body-conscious society known to the world for beaches, bikinis and the girl from Ipanema.
Two photographs with the article showed overweight people at Brazilian beaches. The photographer, a freelance who worked independently from the writer, believed that all the people he photographed were Brazilians. But three women in one picture have now told the newspaper O Globo that they were visitors from Europe. While the article itself has not been questioned, The Times regrets that the nationalities of the women in the photo were not verified.

[Sadly, the article no longer contains the photos. But Keith J. Kelly has more about the snafu in the New York Post, as did Reuters on Thursday.]

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