Notable corrections

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Noted by Geoff Nunberg, some linguistically relevant examples in Robert Rector collection of “The best (or worst) news media corrections of 2015“, Pasadena Star-News 12/28/2015:

“Norma Adams-Wade’s June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite.” — The Dallas Morning News.

“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.

“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.

And one that illustrates the potentially calamitous consequences of denasalization:

“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.

This one could have explained a lot:

“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.

Some of the other corrections seem to hint at interesting background stories:

“Last week’s column mistakenly misidentified a source. The European Commission president is Romano Prodi, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”— Falsely attributed to the The Prague Post, but apparently this appeared in a clearly satirical article in 2001, long before the Prague Post even existed.

“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.

“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.

[Update — unfortunately the list is fraudulent in various ways — at best the corrections are from several years in the past, not last year, and some (in particular the Prague Post citation) are simply wrong, having been taken from a satirical item in a different publication entirely…]



11 Comments

  1. Stan Carey said,

    January 3, 2016 @ 6:56 am

    A fun set. But I wish the Star-News had included the date of each correction (or a link where possible) and written a less misleading headline.

    [(myl) Indeed. One of the items they cite is the “30 sows and pig” ~ “thirty thousand pigs” error from 2011. Which makes you wonder how many of the others are old, or even apocryphal…]

  2. Stan Carey said,

    January 3, 2016 @ 8:47 am

    @myl: The first is about a decade old, the second is from 2007, the next two are from 2008, then 2004, 2001, and so on. Few seem especially recent.

    [(myl) I should have checked. At least so far none of them seem to be made up…]

  3. Robert Coren said,

    January 3, 2016 @ 10:50 am

    The one about the multiple-thousand pigs is old enough for me to have read it in childhood (actually in the form of a joke involving a farmer with a lisp), which makes me wonder if it ever happened at all.

    I am filled with admiration for the corrections editor at the Titusville Herald, sufficiently so that I choose to believe this one is real whether it is or not.

  4. Graeme Hirst said,

    January 3, 2016 @ 11:29 am

    The “Hitler’s mother” example is from a 1981 Denys Parsons book.

  5. Raymond Johnston said,

    January 3, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

    We did not run this text in any form during 2015:
    “Last week’s column mistakenly misidentified a source. The European Commission president is Romano Prodi, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”— The Prague Post.
    We have not been a weekly for over two years and we no longer have columns of any kind.
    The text apparently comes from 2001 from a clearly labeled parody or humor article, and not from 2015.
    I demand in the strongest terms that you remove the false reference to the Prague Post.
    Raymond Johnston
    Editor in chief
    The Prague Post

    [(myl) The fraudulent nature of the previous reference has been clearly indicated.]

  6. Rubrick said,

    January 3, 2016 @ 9:49 pm

    I’m impressed that the editor of the Prague Post is aware of Language Log. Interesting that he commented here but not on the original article. (No doubt LL has a far higher readership than the Pasadena Star-News.)

  7. Victoria SImmons said,

    January 3, 2016 @ 9:50 pm

    “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.”

    This suggests to me that the list was meant to be the best items from of all the year-end lists of the last decade.

  8. Mike said,

    January 4, 2016 @ 1:17 am

    The fraudulence of this list notwithstanding, Poynter does run a yearly feature of media errors. There are at least a few linguistically interesting errors featured this year, including one involving distinguishing a voiced coda:

    *Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz saying that President Obama could have “told the American people that he hurt them.” Cruz said Obama could have “told the American people that he heard them.”

    and, of course, the “love trumps hate” error.

  9. KathrynM said,

    January 4, 2016 @ 12:31 pm

    I note that the staff of the Pasadena Star-News has not caught (or, perhaps, has simply not corrected) the error in the article itself highlighted–perhaps unintentionally?–by Victoria S’s quotation of the sentence containing it. I’m meditating on just how one complies a list …

  10. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    January 5, 2016 @ 5:33 pm

    They seem to have been alerted to the problem:

    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. The irony of this correction is not lost.

  11. Yerushalmi said,

    January 10, 2016 @ 10:28 am

    The correction has been updated again, to remove the Prague Post one:

    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.

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