It is the custom of this column to mark the end of each year with a compilation of the best, or worse, or most convoluted, or contrived, or outrageous, or downright silly media corrections.
We used to focus exclusively on newspapers but since the printed word is becoming as rare as the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat (which, to the uninitiated, is extremely rare), we have broadened our approach. We now welcome TV and the Internet to this walk of shame.
Steve Harvey and Brian Williams, come on down.
Why commemorate mistakes? After all, journalism is a profession that prides itself on accuracy. But sometimes in the production of countless words spread across countless pages, mistakes are made. And some are funny.
So once a year we pause long enough to laugh at ourselves. It seems a little humor is good medicine when you spend your days covering a world that seems to have gone mad.
Since this year is the 10th year we have complied this list, it seems entirely fitting that we look back on the very best of the miscues that made news.
Without further ado, we present the Mea Culpa Awards.
“Norma Adams-Wade’s June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite.” — The Dallas Morning News.
“Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published on 21 April in the Independent Saturday magazine, Ms. Blair’s representatives have told us that she was friendly with but never had a relationship with Carole Caplin of the type suggested in the article. They want to make it clear, which we are happy to do, that Ms. Blair has never shared a shower with Ms. Caplin, was not introduced to spirit guides or primal wrestling by Ms. Caplin (or anyone else), and did not have her diary masterminded by Ms. Caplin. “ —The Independent Saturday (UK) magazine.
“In articles published on 23 and 26 May 2008, we gave the impression that Mr. (David) Gest had contracted a sexually transmitted infection and alleged that he had Liza Minnelli’s dog killed without her knowledge. This was wrong. David Gest has never had a sexually transmitted infection and did not have Ms. Minnelli’s dog killed.” — Daily Mail, UK.
“We said that, in the American TV drama ‘24,’ Jack Bauer, the counter-terrorism agent, resorted to electrocution to extract information. You cannot extract information from someone who has been electrocuted because they are dead.” — The Guardian, UK.
“An Oct. 1 editorial referred to Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Colville as a ‘classy candidate.’ This page regrets the error.” — Lewiston Morning Tribune.
“Reporter Amanda Hess, in a story published Monday, acknowledges she wrongly wrote that ‘one in three black men who have sex with me is HIV positive.’ In fact, the statistic applies to black men ‘who have sex with men.’” — Washington Citypaper.
“The following corrects errors in the July 17 geographical agent and broker listing: Aberdeen is in Scotland, not Saudi Arabia; Antwerp is in Belgium, not Barbados; Belfast is in Northern Ireland, not Nigeria; Cardiff is in Wales, not Vietnam; Helsinki is in Finland, not Fiji; Moscow is in Russia, not Qatar.” —- Business Insurance magazine.
“There was an error printed in the story titled ‘Pigs Float Down the Dawson’…The story, by reporter Daniel Burdon, said ‘more than 30,000 pigs were floating down the Dawson River.’ What piggery owner Sid Everingham actually said was ‘30 sows and pigs,’ not ‘30,000 pigs.’” — The Morning Bulletin, Australia.
“Our panel listing the expected highlights at Glastonbury this summer catapulted into the festival’s headliners a band not so much obscure as unknown, even to those expert in Judaic contributions to rock. The group Frightened Rabbi should have been the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit.” — The Guardian.
“In the September profile of Chelsea Clinton, ‘Waiting in the Wings’ by Jonathan Van Meter, Dan Baer was mistakenly identified as an interior designer. He is deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State.” — Vogue magazine.
“A column by Glenn Garvin on Dec. 20 stated that the National Science Foundation ‘funded a study on Jell-O wrestling at the South Pole.’ That is incorrect. The event took place during off-duty hours without NSF permission and did not involve taxpayer funds.” — Miami Herald.
“Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the number of years E.B. White wrote for The New Yorker. It was five decades, not centuries.” —The New York Times.
“Just to keep the record straight, it was the famous Whistler’s Mother, not Hitler’s, that was exhibited at the recent meeting of the Pleasantville Methodists. There is nothing to be gained in trying to explain how the error occurred.” —Titusville (Pa.) Herald.
“A Bloody Mary recipe…called for 12 ounces of vodka and 36 ounces of tomato juice. The recipe as printed incorrectly reversed the amounts, calling for 36 ounces of vodka and 12 ounces of tomato juice.” — Wall Street Journal.
“This post originally quoted photographer Tom Sanders as saying it takes him five years to get on the dance floor. It takes him five beers.” Slate magazine.
“Articles on April 25 and 26 about Pope Benedict XVI said that St. Peter was the founder of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the church, Jesus was the founder.” — Washington Post.
“Karol Wojtyla was referred to in Saturday’s Credo column as “the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years”. This should, of course, have read “non-Italian pope.” —London Times.
“The Argus would like to apologize for suggesting that the director of the Brighton Science Festival believes the ‘21st century will be remembered for a terrible war between mankind and goats.’ That contention, as well as another goat-obsessed comment, actually came in the form of a question submitted by a reader.” — Argus, Brighton, England.
“An article on Monday about a recall election facing Colorado lawmakers who supported gun-control legislation referred incorrectly to one of the Republican challengers expected to face John Morse, the State Senate president, on the ballot. The candidate, Bernie Herpin, is a former city councilman, not an author of erotic novels.” — New York Times.
“The Ottawa Citizen and Southam News wish to apologize for our apology to Mark Steyn, published Oct. 22. In correcting the incorrect statements about Mr. Steyn published Oct. 15, we incorrectly published the incorrect correction. We accept and regret that our original regrets were unacceptable.” — Ottawa Citizen and Southam News.
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, the headline wrongly implied all these media corrections were from 2015. This is Rector’s 2015 list, but the corrections are from various dates. In addition, one correction included was not a correction but was from a humor column. It has been removed. The irony of these corrections is not lost.
Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector 1.