Gossip is a cutthroat business. It’s also an error-prone one.

Mistakes are inevitable when you trade in rumors and rely on “spies” and self-interested publicists to feed you product. Or, yes, when you simply make things up in order to sell magazines or newspapers.

The New York Post’s Page Six, the grande dame of old school gossip columns, has had its share of whoppers over the years. It added another notable correction to its archives this week after it reported that Michelle Obama had a craving for lobster and caviar while staying at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Alas, there was no such meal. In fact, Mrs. Obama didn’t even stay at the hotel. The correction:

THE source who told us last week about Michelle Obama getting lobster and caviar delivered to her room at the Waldorf-Astoria must have been under the influence of a mind-altering drug. She was not even staying at the Waldorf. We regret the mistake, and our former source is going to regret it, too. Bread and water would be too good for such disinformation.

Yes, an amusing offering. Focusing on how your now “former” source was wrong is also a good way to deflect criticism for a wholly inaccurate report that was bound to be picked up and used as political cannon fodder. In fact, blaming a source is a common theme in Page Six corrections, of which there have been many. With that in mind, I offer the best of Page Six’s recent corrections:

“ON Dec. 28, we reported that Steve Bing went on a ‘dinner date from hell’ with
Pamela Anderson. The item, based on a report by Us Weekly, was wrong.
The date did not occur. We regret the error.” Link

“… it wasn’t Jam Master Jay the other night at Crobar. It was loud and dark and our intrepid reporter has trouble distinguishing among Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Fab Five Freddy and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Jam Master was murdered two years ago, and we apologize to his family…” Link

“LARRY David and his wife, Laurie, must have pretty convincing doubles. The testy comic says yesterday’s report from our spy that David went ballistic when his BMW was hit by a shopping cart on Martha’s Vineyard is ‘so fantastical, I’m considering hiring your source for my show … none of it is true.’ Worse, the ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ star says, ‘the most egregious error was that they had me wearing shorts, an item of clothing that hasn’t been on my body since I started growing hair.’ ” Link

“OUR spies need to clean out their ears and get some glasses. On Nov. 23, we incorrectly reported that Nicolas Cage’s wife, Alice, while at the L.A. premiere of ‘National Treasure,’ asked someone, ‘What is the Declaration of Independence?’ and that Cage came to her rescue and stated, ‘Please don’t ask my wife any history questions.’ We
apologize to the Cages who, we are sure, are both well versed in American history.” Link

“WE blew it yesterday when we reported that Herman Melville worked at the front desk of the Riverview Hotel on West Street in 1907, an impossibility since the ‘Moby Dick’ author died in 1891, as many of our more learned readers pointed out. While we’re correcting bad information: a rep for Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard wants it known that the couple, who’ve been together for 31/2 years, have never broken up: ‘They live together and they are very happy together.’ ” Link

“ON April 23 we reported that the fiancée of Gregg ‘Opie’ Hughes, one half of the Opie and Anthony radio show, was involved in an X-rated sex video with MTV star Bam Margera. We reported that Hughes was taking legal action against a disgruntled ex-employee of the radio duo who had acquired the rights to the video. We have since learned that this information, supplied by Steppin’ Out’s Chaunce Hayden, was entirely incorrect. There is no sex tape. Further, Hughes’ fiancée has never met the MTV star. The Post sincerely regrets the error.” Link

Correction of the Week

“Stupid is as stupid does. And it was a pretty stupid one as I hit the send button on Wednesday night.

“The Oilers hardly spent a moment in Anaheim’s end of the rink for the first 30 minutes and the Honda Centre press box is so far from the ice you need binoculars to read the names, but that’s no excuse - listing J.S. Giguere as the starter instead of Jonas Hiller is straight out of the Thick Forehead Hall of Fame.

“In the same hurried rush to make a west coast deadline I had Mathieu Garon mixed up in the Edmonton-Los Angeles-Anaheim transaction blender with Matt Greene, Ladislav Smid, Lubomir Visnovsky, Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll, Chris Pronger and Joffrey Lupul. Garon used to play for the Kings, of course, not down the road in Anaheim.
Sorry for the brain cramps. Jeopardy won’t be calling anytime soon.”– Edmonton Sun

A Notable Editors’ Note

“An article in the Itineraries pages last Tuesday reported about the increasing stress on business travelers, and cited the findings of “Stress in America,” an annual survey of the American Psychological Association. That survey found that economic factors were the leading causes of stress levels in 2008, but it did not say, as the article did, that “the crisis on Wall Street was the No. 1 cause of anxiety,” nor did participants in the survey say they felt most vulnerable to stress “in the office and on a business trip.”

“The survey included data from Sept. 19 to Sept. 23, 2008, a period of volatility on Wall Street, but none of the questions in the association’s survey referred to Wall Street or any economic crises. Participants were not asked how business travel affected their stress levels or where they felt most vulnerable to stress. The author of the article distorted the survey’s findings to fit his theme, contrary to The Times’s standards of integrity.

“The article also quoted incorrectly from a comment by Nancy Molitor, a psychologist in Wilmette, Ill., who told the author that, “In my 20 years of practice I’ve never seen such anxiety among my patients,” not “among my banking and business patients.” While Dr. Molitor does have patients in banking and business, she did not single them out as being more anxious than her other patients.” – The New York Times

Talking to the Press Can Turn You Into an Alcoholic

“Bob Fredrick, a clinical social worker and therapist in Atlanta, is not a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. A story in the Sunday Living section had incorrect information, including a misspelling of his name.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Parting Shot
“An item on yesterday’s front page said oil prices had fallen to a 14-year low. We should be so lucky. In fact, they fell Thursday to a 14-month low.” – Hamilton Spectator