Columns

2005.12.21 Not done

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

It’s always dangerous to make light of another newspaper’s errors. Generally, it’s the guaranteed way to find something embarrassing in your own paper in the next edition. There’s just some odd law of the universe at work here.

I ran across a website that catalogues errors and corrections throughout the year and comes up with a list of favorites. This is their Correction of the Year:

“The Denver Daily News would like to offer a sincere apology for a typo in Wednesday’s Town Talk regarding New Jersey’s proposal to ban smoking in automobiles. It was not the author’s intention to call New Jersey ‘Jew Jersey.’”

The Typo of the Year award went to a Reuters report about the recall of “beef panties.” The Dallas Morning News earned first runner up with: “Norma Adams-Wade’s June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite.”

The Guardian from London offered this correction: “In our G2 cover story about Hunter S. Thompson yesterday we mistakenly attributed to Richard Nixon the view that Thompson represented ‘that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character.’ On the contrary, it was what Thompson said of Nixon.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story not once, but twice, about a Slovakian man who urinated his way to freedom after getting caught in an avalanche with 60 half-liter bottles of beer. A correction noted that it was a popular internet myth.

Last August, a Fox News reporter gave the address of a terrorist in Los Angeles. It’s true that the man lived there—three years ago—but the family now living there was in for a very unpleasant few weeks. The reporter apologized and said “Mistakes happen.”

WE HAD a few corrections of our own during the past year. Six, to be exact, plus a couple of clarifications.

There was my mathematical error regarding Morenci’s sewage rate increase expressed as a percentage, and even an explanation of how I made the error. That way I only looked foolish instead of stupid.

Our Most Embarrassing award was in regard to the relationship between Clare Fauver and Janet Schultz. First, we listed a correction. The next week we listed a correction to the correction. “A correction in last week’s Observer was still incorrect.”

I recently received a seven-page letter—unsigned, of course—criticizing my coverage of large farms and manure discharges. One of the complaints is that I listed the owners of the Chesterfield Township dairy as “van de Kolk” instead of “Van de Kolk.” I’ve seen various spellings, but I thought it would be safe to go with the one listed at the Vreba-Hoff company website. After all, that’s the company that helped them get established and grow. So I don’t I know if Vreba-Hoff is wrong and the letter-writer is right, but I do know the writer is very perturbed with this newspaper.

Since becoming what he calls a “Mega-newspaper” and adding more Fayette coverage, the writer thinks our errors have become more numerous.

Hmmm, half of our corrections related to Fayette stories. First came the embarrassing mixup of graduates’ GPAs. There was some sloppy work in that top five feature. At least twice we’ve referred to Paula Schaffner as president of the school board. Maybe next year she’ll be elected to that post.

And finally, our last correction of the year was about incorrectly printing the phone number of Judy Kunkle, the hickory nut lady from west of Fayette. She ended up selling all her nuts anyway.

Occasionally someone on the staff will take the dangerous step of writing a stupid headline that they know will be changed before the paper goes to press. So far, they’ve all been caught.

That wasn’t the case at the Hillsdale Daily News last week when an employee added an item about the marriage of a couple of Waldron men to the social news. One is a council member; the other a former mayor.

The item didn’t get proofed and the reporter now has “former” attached to his title.

The Des Moines Register published a column with the headline “Not Done.” It turns out it was just a rough draft. Sounds like a good idea to me. That’s probably what half my readers think anyway.

  - Dec. 21, 2005

 

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