Le Monde, a highly respected French newspaper, committed an error so egregious on Wednesday that its editors believed the only way to correct their mistake was to publish a front page apology.
Had the paper falsely accused someone of a crime, or damaged a company’s stock price as a result of incorrect reporting? Maybe it had discovered an incident of plagiarism or fabrication?
On Wednesday, Le Monde published a story that referred to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife as “Cecilia Bruni-Sarkozy.” This was an unfortunate mingling of the names of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the president’s third and current wife, and Cecilia Attias, his second wife. (She recently remarried as well. With six marriages between her and the president, Le Monde’s gaffe is somewhat understandable.)
The paper’s front page apologia on Thursday noted that “an unfortunate slip” caused the mistake. “To our readers, to Mr and Mrs Sarkozy, to Mrs Cecilia Attias, we present our most sincere apologies,” it wrote.
Le Monde wasn’t the only European paper to step up with a major apology this week. The Daily Star and Daily Express, two papers that are part of Richard Desmond’s Express Newspapers company, also stepped up to apologize to Kate and Gerry McCann, a couple against which the papers had leveled repeated accusations after their daughter disappeared while on vacation. This was the second round of apologies for the papers, with the first having come back in March. This week, the Daily Express offered these regrets:
IN articles published between July and December last year we suggested that the holiday companions of Kate and Gerry McCann might have covered up the true facts concerning Madeleine McCann’s disappearance and/or misled the authorities investigating her disappearance.
We also reported speculation that one member of the group, Dr Russell O’Brien, was suspected of involvement with Madeleine’s abduction. We now accept that these suggestions should never have been made and were completely untrue. We apologise to Jane Tanner, Russell O’Brien, Fiona Payne, David Payne, Matthew Oldfield, Rachael Oldfield and Diane Webster to whom we have agreed to pay substantial damages which they will be donating to the Find Madeleine Fund.
Based on its actions this week, you could almost imagine Le Monde publishing a special apology edition if it had done something similar.
Correction of the Week
“Monday’s review of the Village People at Seneca Niagara Casino stated that former member Victor Willis is deceased. Willis is still alive.” — Buffalo News
On Monday, The New York Times shared the story of a hoax that fooled the press nearly 150 years ago:
IN 1864, back when rumor still traveled by foot, a young messenger walked into the newsrooms of New York City’s press row with an Associated Press bulletin that President Lincoln had ordered the conscription of 400,000 additional troops for the Union.
The news arrived at a precarious time for the newspapers — around 2 a.m. Even the night editors had left, forcing a skeleton crew to decide whether to rush something into the paper, or risk being scooped. Two papers took the bait on what soon was exposed as a hoax.
But the news also came at a precarious time for the country: a conscription would have meant the Union army was in trouble, and the price of gold soon shot up. Two journalists from Brooklyn hatched the plan, knowing how best to sneak bogus news into print, and remembering to buy gold beforehand. (They were soon caught.)
“The name of the former Syracuse football player is Dick Easterly. We landed on the other side of the compass in a story on Tuesday’s etc. page.” – St. Petersburg Times