Corrections for the True Connoisseur

Celebrating some of the year’s strangest corrections

Like a chef who becomes bored with steak and potatoes and begins seeking out the strange and sublime, my taste in media errors and corrections is beginning to veer towards the edges.

This became clear as I undertook my annual ritual of reviewing a year’s worth of media errors and corrections published on my Web site, in order to select the best of the worst. My annual Year in Media Errors and Corrections and Plagiarism Round-Up went live on Wednesday.

The errors post is over 6,000 words long, and features some of the mistakes and issues I’ve covered in this column over the past twelve months. For example, the Correction of the Year was the Washington Post correction that launched a thousand tweets. The Error of the Year was the Wafergate scandal and apologies, and the Trend of the Year was fact checking, which I previously called “one of the great American pastimes of the Internet age.”

As a result, it’s the less celebrated corrections and errors that I want to highlight now. These, I think, appeal to the true connoisseur. They offer something different, something unique. For example, I have to confess a soft spot for this Los Angeles Times correction:

Bear sighting: An item in the National Briefing in Sunday’s Section A said a bear wandered into a grocery story in Hayward, Wis., on Friday and headed for the beer cooler. It was Thursday.

Seriously? The day’s the problem with that story? Amazing. A correction like that makes me want to read the original article. (Really, though, it makes me wish I’d seen a bear wander into a grocery store and beeline for the beer aisle.)

I also admire the public service aspect of this Guardian correction:

A reply to a question in Notes & Queries yesterday recommended purchasing lion and tiger urine from Chester Zoo to stop neighbourhood cats from urinating in a vegetable patch (G2, page 17). Chester Zoo would like to forestall requests for its big cats’ urine: it asks us to make clear that it does not in fact sell either tiger or lion urine. Many years ago the zoo sold elephant dung, but it no longer does.

Honestly, how can you not love something that includes the phrase “forestall requests for its big cats’ urine”?

Another gem drives home the point that those of us in the press aren’t spared from error. From the Independent (U.K.):

Further to the reference in the paper on 14 June to Rebekah Wade allegedly hitting her first husband, Ross Kemp, after a “drinking bout” with David Blunkett, Mr Blunkett has been in touch to correct the record: “the alleged ‘drinking bout’ was a cup of tea at 5.30 in the evening (with witnesses including Rupert Murdoch)… There was no ‘drinking bout’, I’ve never been involved in such a ‘drinking bout’ – with or without Rebekah Wade”.

(Rebekah Wade is a well-known British journalist. No idea who this Rupert Murdoch fella is…)

None of those corrections won an award this year, but they all have a special place in my heart. As does Reuters’s typo that stated some people occasionally suffer from a “persistent drug cough” (as opposed to a “dry cough), and this translation error from the Times (U.K.):

On November 5 we translated the name of Ed and Nancy Kienholz’s artwork at the National Gallery, The Hoerengracht, as ‘Gentlemen’s Canal’. This should have read ‘Whore’s Canal’. We apologise for the error.

Different people are partial to different kinds of corrections. We all have different preferences. For example, how does this award-winning correction from OC Weekly strike you:

In the Feb. 27 story “Hive and Seek,” we mistakenly referred to the subjects as the Backyard Beekeepers. Their name is actually Backyard B Keepers. The Beekly regretzzzz the error. And thankzzzz to The Orange CountyRegister for totally ripping our story off on April 2 (dun-dun-DUNNN!)-and, uh, getting the name of the group right (wah-wah-wahhhh).

Sure, it beats any rote recitation of a misspelled name, which is why I awarded it Most Creative Correction. Yet I find myself yearning for something with a little more… what’s the term?

Big cat urine.

Correction of the Week

“The Inquirer yesterday erred in publishing a photograph that accompanied a story on Judge Paul W. Tressler of Montgomery County Court. The photograph was not of the judge, shown at left, but of Howard Nevison, a sex offender sentenced by Tressler in 2006. The Inquirer regrets the error and apologizes.” – Philadelphia Inquirer

Craig Silverman is the editor of and the author of Regret The Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech. He is also the editorial director of and a columnist for the Toronto Star.