August 13, 2005

Playing Defense, Continued

The continuation of Gelf's roundup of enlightening and entertaining media corrections.

Carl Bialik

Paul Antonson
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.

This is Part Two of this week's Oops column; click here for Part One.

Supreme Error

Washington Post, July 20: Two July 20 articles [second one here] on John G. Roberts Jr., the federal appellate judge nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bush, said Roberts is a member of the Federalist Society. The White House says Roberts does not recall ever being a member.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 22: An article Wednesday on the legal background of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. misstated his involvement with the Federalist Society. A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said Roberts had given presentations before the legal group but was not a member. Federalist Society membership records are private, according to its president, Eugene Meyer.

San Francisco Chronicle, July 22: A story Thursday erroneously identified Supreme Court nominee John Roberts as a member of the conservative Federalist Society. The White House said Thursday that Roberts has spoken at the society but does not recall ever becoming a member.

Los Angeles Times, July 22: An article in Wednesday's Section A profiling Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. said he was a member of the Federalist Society. Roberts has given speeches to the conservative group, but does not recall having been a member, a White House spokeswoman said.
Newspapers may have rushed to correct this one too quickly. Roberts was listed in the group's directory as on the steering committee for its Washington, D.C., chapter. The Christian Science Monitor looked behind the group and why Roberts's affiliation would matter.

Arizona Daily Star, August 6: A Molly Ivins column July 30 on B6, about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, incorrectly stated that it is "unheard of" for nominees to have only two years' experience on the bench. Many nominees, including some appointed as Supreme Court justices, had little or no prior experience as judges.

Ivins wrote, "Since we have only two years worth of Roberts' decisions on the bench (in itself unheard of for nominations to the Supremes), the information about how this society plans to steer the country can be very revealing of his positions." Her suspect reporting was the subject of the previous Oops column.

Miami Herald, July 22: A story on in [sic] Thursday's Herald about the legal career of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. misspelled the last name of former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson.

Miami Herald, July 21: Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s former Washington law firm, Hogan & Hartson, LLP, was misspelled on Page 1A of Wednesday's Herald.

Boston Globe, July 26: Because of an editing error, the date of Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court was misstated in a caption accompanying an article on Court confirmations in last Sunday's Ideas section. Thomas was nominated and confirmed in 1991.

Washington Post, July 21: A July 21 article said that the liberal advocacy group Alliance for Justice opposed the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court. The group, which opposed Roberts's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, issued a statement when he was nominated to the high court saying that it "cannot support" him "at this time" but did not call for the defeat of Roberts's nomination.

Washington Post, July 22: A July 22 Style profile of Jane Roberts, the wife of John G. Roberts Jr., indicated that the Supreme Court nominee is antiabortion. He has not made his position on the issue public.
The article didn't just indicate it but said Roberts's position was unequivocal. "Those scouring the writings of John G. Roberts to assess how he would vote on future Supreme Court cases involving abortion will not find much clarity from his wife's record. Like him, she seems unequivocally antiabortion in her personal views, but from there she does not follow the usual path."

New York Times, July 22: A front-page article on Wednesday about the nomination of John G. Roberts to the Supreme Court referred incorrectly to a document that restated the opposition of the first Bush administration to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established the constitutional right to abortion. The statement was included in a brief he helped write as deputy solicitor general, arguing in favor of a government regulation banning abortion-related counseling in federally financed family planning programs. It was not in a separate brief.

Washington Post, July 22: A July 22 article about a speech by retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor contained outdated salary figures for members of the court. The chief justice earns $208,100 a year, and associate justices earn $199,200.

Boston Globe, July 21: A Page One story yesterday on the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court quoted a prediction in National Journal magazine that Roberts would win Senate confirmation by a comfortable margin. The prediction was made by columnist Stuart Taylor Jr. and does not reflect the magazine's views.

New York Times, July 22: A front-page news analysis article on Wednesday about President Bush's nomination of John G. Roberts to the Supreme Court and its effect on Democratic opposition misstated the stance of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut. Senator Lieberman had been quoted last week by The Hartford Courant as saying Judge Roberts was "in the ballpark" as someone who could be considered without sparking an uproar in the Senate. He did not say that he was likely to support Judge Roberts if he were nominated.
The Courant reported that Lieberman "said federal appellate Judges Michael McConnell and John G. Roberts were 'in the ballpark,'' and that 'people tell me' appeals court Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson is 'very similar.' Lieberman emphasized that should they be nominated, they would be carefully scrutinized."

New York Times, July 22: A chart on Wednesday about the nomination and confirmation of justices now on the Supreme Court misidentified the president who nominated Justice David Souter in 1990. He was George Bush, not Ronald Reagan.

Los Angeles Times, July 19: An article in Friday's Section A about Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said Melville Fuller was chief justice from 1890 to 1910. He led the court from 1888 to 1910.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

New York Times, August 4: An article on Monday about the influence of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, omitted attribution for the first press report that a society directory listed Judge John G. Roberts Jr., nominee for the Supreme Court, as a member of one of the group's steering committees, a role Mr. Roberts has said he does not remember. It was reported by The Washington Post.

Wall Street Journal, August 5: A job posting by Amazon.com related to its planned digital-music service was first reported by the Web site paidcontent.org. The initial version of an article on Friday should have credited the site. The credit has been added.

New York Times, July 29: A front-page article on July 15 about financial details of a contract between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and a group of fitness magazines referred incompletely to the news reports that brought the terms to light. Before their publication in California newspapers, they were disclosed by the Reuters news agency.


Washington Times, July 19: A report in Friday's editions said "USA Today reported" that CIA official Valerie Plame had not worked under "nonofficial cover" since 1997. USA Today was repeating a statement in her husband Joseph C. Wilson IV's book, "The Politics of Truth."

Guardian, July 22: We stated, wrongly, on three occasions that anyone who knowingly reveals the identity of a covert agent in the US could be jailed for up to 20 years. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act sets the maximum penalty at 10 years (Sack Rove over spy leak, say Democrats, page 13, July 13; Rove testifies that Time columnist told him identity of CIA agent, page 18, July 16; Top White House advisers named as CIA leak sources, page 2, July 18).

Guardian, July 19: In a report headed Rove testifies that Time columnist told him identity of CIA agent, page 18, July 16, we identified Robert Novak as a Time magazine reporter and a Time columnist. He is neither. He writes a column that is syndicated to various newspapers. Time did not reveal the identity of Valerie Plame; Novak did in his column.

But He Had His Fingers Crossed Behind His Back

Seattle Times, July 24: A previous version of this story contained an error. Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer did shake hands with Storm coach Anne Donovan after Seattle beat his team Saturday, 74-71, contrary to a Sunday article that said he refused to do so.

The Truth Emerged Too Late for Deadline

Dallas Morning News, July 22: In the July 22 Texas Gamer article, which was printed in advance, the maker of the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas asserted that sex scenes in the game were not part of the original code. After the story went to press, Rockstar Games' parent company, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., admitted that the code was created by internal developers.

Strike Three

Rolling Stone/Salon, July 21: The June 16 story "Deadly Immunity" misattributed a quote to Andy Olson, former legislative counsel to Sen. Bill Frist. The comment was made by Dean Rosen, health policy advisor to Frist. Rolling Stone and Salon regret the error.
This is the third correction noted by Gelf in this article; the others are here and here.

False Accusation?

Boston Globe, August 5: Because of a reporting and editing error, the Baseball Notes column in the July 24 Sports section incorrectly said A. J. Pierzynski admitted to receiving banned drugs from trainer Greg Anderson, and the column attributed the information to the San Francisco Chronicle. There has been no evidence or testimony connecting Pierzynski to any banned substances, and he was not named in the Chronicle reporting.
The Chronicle reported in December 2003, "New Giants catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a former Minnesota Twin, said he had been subpoenaed but not asked to testify."

Here, Take These

CBC News, August 1: Some versions of a July 29, 2005, story stated incorrectly that Rene Hamilton offered to sell instructions on bomb making and burglary. Hamilton did not, in fact, offer such instructions, but he included them in batches of files he sold.

A Creepy Correction

Baltimore Sun, August 4: An article yesterday about an Annapolis Boy Scout leader arrested in Baltimore on child pornography-related charges incorrectly stated he was a volunteer with the Girl Scouts. Stanley A. Taylor Sr. told people he was affiliated with the Girl Scouts, but the organization says he was not an approved volunteer.

Read Your Own Damn Company's Earnings Report

New York Times, July 25: An article in Business Day on Friday about second-quarter earnings for Dow Jones & Company and The New York Times Company misstated the profit results for About.com, a subsidiary of The Times Company. It had an operating profit of $2.5 million; it did not report a loss.

Get Your Shit Out of Here

Los Angeles Times, July 30: An article in Tuesday's Outdoors section about the safety of backcountry water advised backpackers and hikers to bury human waste 10 feet from the water. Many sources recommend it be buried at least 100 feet from water; some say 200 feet.

Gender Identity

Los Angeles Times, July 29: An article in Thursday's California section about renewed civility at Thousand Oaks City Hall contained a quote from Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, that was followed with "she said." It should have been "he said."

Akron Beacon Journal, July 26: The caption of a photo taken at an aquarium in Sunday's Community Extra section misidentified baby girl Reese Kloetzer's gender. An editor erred.

Christian Science Monitor, July 19: The original version incorrectly referred to Shimizu as "she."

Religion Identity

Newsday, August 3: Assemb. Dov Hikind is an Orthodox Jew. He was misidentified in a story yesterday.
The original article called Hikind a Hasidic Jew.

Mistaken Identity

Wired News, August 1: This sentence was inadvertently omitted in an earlier version of this story.
Here's the relevant paragraph from the interview with Mike Lynn, with the initially omitted sentence in brackets:

Lynn: They said, "We don't believe you." And (ISS managers) said ... "come down to Atlanta and we'll show you." And that's never happened, by the way, at ISS. They've never brought somebody, let alone a competitor, into the office just to show them (something).... Mike Caudill, (Cisco's) customer advocate, came out. [And they also sent out an engineer ... who described himself as an IOS architect....] I was told he helped design parts of the source code.... And his jaw hit the ground. He was very impressed, he was just (saying), "Wow, that's cool." That was June 14th.

Without the sentence, it sounded like the next sentence described Caudill.

Were They Soccer Tickets?

National Post, July 21: At the hearing of corruption charges against Constable Paul Stone of the Toronto Police Service, Mario Amaro testified that he did not give hockey tickets to Const. Stone. Incorrect information appeared in yesterday's National Post. The Post apologizes to Mr. Amaro for the error.

Of Course

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 21: In a review of the new Harry Potter book in Tuesday's Magazine the name of a colleague of Professor Snape was rendered incorrectly. It was, of course, Professor McGonagall.

Delayed Reaction

New York Times, July 18: An obituary on Jan. 6, 1993, about William G. McLoughlin, an emeritus professor of history and religion at Brown University, misstated the date and cause of his death. Professor McLoughlin died on Dec. 28, 1992, not on Jan. 4, 1993; the cause was colon cancer, not liver cancer. The article also misstated the location of his World War II military service. It was at Fort Sill, Okla., not in Europe. The Times learned of the errors through a recent e-mail message from a family member.

Another Posthumous Correction

Chicago Tribune, August 3: An obituary July 21 and a Good Eating article July 27 stated that Swanson salesman Gerry Thomas, who died July 18, was the inventor of the TV dinner. Other Swanson officials also have been credited with designing and naming the TV dinner, however, and it may be more accurate to say that Thomas was part of the team that invented the product. A Tribune editorial July 22 did not label Thomas the sole inventor but did repeat his claim to have come up with the TV dinner idea to get rid of 520,000 pounds of surplus turkey sitting in railcars. Los Angeles Times reporter Roy Rivenburg has written about inconsistencies in Thomas' claims, and quoted him in 2003 as saying that the railcar story was a "metaphor" for Swanson's problem of surplus turkey.
Rivenburg wrote an L.A. Times column July 31 that apparently prompted these corrections. The subheadline: "Even in death, a charlatan served us up a lot of baloney." Rivenburg wrote:

One of the dirty little secrets of journalism is that reporters rarely have time to investigate every claim people make about their pasts. If you want to embellish, just fool one reporter for one article, then you can use it to show other reporters that your story checked out. It also helps to adopt such accouterments as the cufflinks Thomas wore shaped like TV dinner trays.
Never mind that Swanson family members, historians and frozen-food industry officials from the early 1950s have all contradicted Thomas' tale. Or that, in 1944, the W.L. Maxson Co. created the real first frozen dinner, which was sold to the Navy and later to the airlines. Or that FrigiDinner, not Thomas, devised the first aluminum tray for frozen meals in 1947. Or that several of Thomas' former colleagues say he had little or nothing to do with Swanson's product.

Not as Exclusive as We Thought It Was

Wall Street Journal, July 20: Changing a setting in the preferences panel in iTunes jukebox software allows a user to copy music from CDs into various formats, including MP3. An article in Monday's Journal Report on Technology quoted an iPod music player owner who implied that iTunes jukebox software copies songs only in the Advanced Audio Coding format. Apple Computer Inc.'s paid download service, the iTunes store, sells songs only in AAC.

MacDailyNews wasn't pleased to see this error.

It Sure Won't Be Serialized in This Newspaper

Guardian, July 21: In a report headed FO accused of censoring insider book on Iraq war, page 12, July 18, principally about a book by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, we made reference to a forthcoming book by Sir Christopher Meyer, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, saying that he had negotiated a newspaper serialisation deal. That is not the case. Sir Christopher has not negotiated any serialisation. Neither he nor his agent would be involved in any negotiations. If a newspaper was interested when the book was completed, the matter would be negotiated between the newspaper and the publisher. Sir Christopher has already said (Guardian, July 6) that he would denote any serialisation fee to charity.
The original article stated with certainty, "he has negotiated a newspaper serialisation deal and his book is due out this autumn."

I Oppose the Criminal, Not the Crime

New York Times, July 20: An article last Wednesday about the political evolution of Hillary Rodham Clinton misstated a word in a comment from her interview with WABC radio in 2003. She said, "I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants" - not "illegal immigration."


Washington Post, July 21: A July 21 Metro article incorrectly said that there has not been a successful giant panda birth in the United States via natural mating. There was such a birth at the San Diego Zoo in 2003.
And Gelflog would note that when that panda was born back in 2003, NBC's Katie Couric, the Tennessean, and the Washington Post all referred to it as roughly the size of a stick of butter.

How Did This Happen?

San Francisco Chronicle, July 20: In Datebook on June 30, columnist Jon Carroll mistakenly said that conservative Hindus consider rape a just punishment for certain forms of misbehavior. That is not the case.

Three Very Good Reasons

New York Times, July 24: An article on July 3 about the history of National Lampoon Inc., which included comments from some early editors and writers for the National Lampoon magazine about disagreements with a company founder, Matty Simmons, and what they saw as a resulting decline in the magazine's quality, omitted an explanation of why three of the magazine's creators were not interviewed. Douglas Kenney died in 1980; Michael O'Donoghue died in 1994; and Henry Beard has not spoken publicly about the Lampoon since he left the magazine.

Full Disclosure

Slate, July 22: In the July 19 "Hey, Wait a Minute," Robert Bryce originally stated that ethanol critics David Pimentel and Tad Patzek received no oil industry funding. Pimentel receives no such funding, but Patzek runs the UC Oil Consortium, which does research on oil and is funded by oil companies. His ethanol research is not funded by the oil industry.

'Link' Is Such a Versatile Word

Chicago Tribune, July 22: In some editions of Thursday's Metro section, a headline concerning the federal charges against John Glennon, who is accused of aiding an abetting an alleged fraud on a suburban medical school, incorrectly implied that the charges were linked to Edward Hospital in Naperville. In fact, only the case is linked to Edward Hospital—primarily because Edward's CEO, Pamela Meyer Davis, was secretly working undercover for the FBI in the case.

It Feels Like Spring Out Here

Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 19: The weather information on Page B6 on Monday was incorrect because of an error that caused data from May to be published.

Reverse Racism

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 30: The headline over yesterday's front-page story on the new heart drug BiDil incorrectly stated the medication is only for black patients. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration approved it for "self-identified African Americans" but did not prohibit or warn against use in nonblacks. The company says physicians will prescribe it as they see fit, and physicians expect sizable off-label use in nonblacks.
The headline on the original article: "Marketing medicine for black community."

Covering the Competition

New York Times, July 19: A Critic's Notebook article on June 25 about the choice of the Drawing Center museum in SoHo for the planned International Freedom Center at ground zero, and a debate on whether the selection is appropriate, referred imprecisely to an article in The Daily News about the museum. While The News's criticism cited only four specific examples of "politically charged" works, it did not say there were only four, and the paper spoke of having found "numerous" examples among dozens of exhibition catalogs examined.

New York Times, August 7: An article last Sunday about efforts of nonconservative Republicans to win the party's nomination for president misstated the name of a newspaper in New Hampshire, where the season's first primary has traditionally been held. It is The New Hampshire Union Leader, no longer The Manchester Union Leader. The article also misattributed the view that Gov. George E. Pataki of New York would be unfit to run for president in 2008. That view was expressed by Deroy Murdock in a syndicated column that appeared in The Union Leader in 2004, not by the newspaper's editorial page. The article also characterized The Union Leader's past assessment of Mr. Pataki incorrectly. Andrew Cline, the editorial page editor, says The Union Leader never "sang his praises," as the article suggested.

Observer, August 7: 'News from the streets—straight on to the web' (Media, last week) said the BBC took three hours to cover the Shepherd's Bush bombing attempt; the scene was covered live within minutes. The piece was also wrong when it said that the BBC News and CNN websites crashed on 7 July; the BBC recorded 115 million page impressions that day—a record. Apologies."

Our Local Papers

Detroit Free Press, August 5: In Thursday's coverage of the purchases of Detroit newspapers, two different figures appeared for the number of daily newspapers owned by MediaNews Group, which announced it is buying the Detroit News. MediaNews owns 50, including some that are part of privately held affiliated companies.

Thieves Hate That Car

Saginaw News, July 20: Thieves covet the 1999 Acura Integra. An Associated Press photograph Tuesday showed a different model.

Cross Out Some Letters From 'Milwaukee Journal Sentinel' and Get 'Weenie'

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, July 22: An article Thursday about a veto by Gov. Jim Doyle that would cut $35 million from preliminary engineering of Zoo Interchange reconstruction misstated how Doyle would change the budget. The article stated that Doyle would cross out the "8" in a $38 million appropriation, leaving $3 million, but the $38 million figure does not appear in the budget. Lawmakers added the interchange money and approved a separate motion indicating how the cash was to be spent. Doyle would cross out the Legislature's number for freeway work, $87.7 million, and write in $52.7 million instead. That is a "write-down veto." Crossing out digits to come up with a smaller number is called a "digit veto," not a "Vanna White veto," as the graphic incorrectly stated. The "Vanna White veto," crossing out letters to make new words, has been banned.
See a definition of the banned, rather hilarious type of veto at Double-Tongued Word Wrestler.

A Newspaper's Sarcasm Deficit

New York Times, July 23: A Critic's Notebook article in Weekend yesterday about podcasts referred incorrectly to Dan Klass, creator of "The Bitterest Pill." While he has indeed called himself an addict, he said that the description was intended as a humorous reference likening himself to fans of his podcast who call themselves addicts, and that he is not really an addict.
Klass wrote on his blog, "Depressive? Yes. Self-identified Addict? Not officially. Do they not get the joke?" He wasn't much happier about the correction's wording: "Is it just me, or do they make it seem like it's my fault that they printed that I'm an addict and that my show is about addiction? Did Jayson Blair teach them nothing? And so, inevitably, he podcasted about it.

Good News: You're Not Mean. Bad News: Prepare to Be Bullied

Detroit Free Press, July 22: In the quiz published with Thursday's front-page article about mean girls, it appeared that those who scored in the 18-24 points range were considered mean girls. Instead, those who scored in that range were likely to be victims of mean girls.

Worth a Thousand Hyperbolic Words

Orange County Register, July 30: Kristine Calder, pictured wearing a parka indoors in the Business section of the July 28 edition of the Register, doesn't routinely wear a coat inside her house. She put the coat on in jest to illustrate how cold her husband keeps their home for a story about declining energy-conservation efforts.
The caption on the photo read, "Kristine Calder says she wears a coat in the house because her husband keeps it at 73-74 degrees." Room temperature is 68 degrees. Maybe the Calders use the Kelvin scale?

Party Poopers

Detroit Free Press, July 29: A presentation about free things you can get on your birthday included that the Ferndale and Novi franchises of Buffalo Wild Wings gave a dessert to patrons under 12 and a beer to people 21 and over on their birthdays. The free beer has been dropped; a free dessert is available to meal buyers of any age on their birthdays.

He Didn't Shoot the Sheriff, Either

Detroit Free Press, July 27: Susan Ager's column mistakenly said the director of the Area Agency on Aging in Leelanau County posed nude for a fund-raising calendar. He did not, but his deputy did.

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.

Post a comment

Comment Rules

The following HTML is allowed in comments:
Bold: <b>Text</b>
Italic: <i>Text</i>
<a href="URL">Text</a>


Article by Carl Bialik

Contact this author