Craig Silverman keeps track of the strangest newspaper corrections of the year on his Web site, regrettheerror.com. Silverman, whose book, Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, won a National Press Club award this year, has graciously allowed us to excerpt the best of the worst. Here is a collection of newspaper errors from 2008, plus a golden oldie from us.
Correction of the year
One of the year's most coveted awards goes to none other than Dave Barry, left. Here's how the famous humor writer chose to correct a misspelling he made in a column published by the Miami Herald: In yesterday's column about badminton, I misspelled the name of Guatemalan player Kevin Cordon. I apologize. In my defense, I want to note that in the same column I correctly spelled Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarak, Poompat Sapkulchananart and Porntip Buranapraseatsuk. So by the time I got to Kevin Cordon, my fingers were exhausted.
The Age: An article in last week's Sunday Age, "Born to be, um, mild — and possibly damp", contained views about biker groups that were inserted in the editing process. As well, the survey of motorcyclists who rode for about three hours every weekend found that many had problems emptying their bladders. The story stated that bike riders could be "bedwetters". The error was made during editing.
The Guardian: We said that, in the American TV drama 24, Jack Bauer, the counterterrorism agent, resorted to electrocution to extract information. You cannot extract information from someone who has been electrocuted because they are dead (Questioning, the Jack Bauer way, page 1, April 19).
Press and Journal (United Kingdom): We have been asked to point out that Stuart Kennedy, of Flat E, 38 Don Street, Aberdeen, who appeared at Peterhead Sheriff Court on Monday, had 316 pink, frilly garters confiscated not 316 pink, frilly knickers.
Slate: In the June 20 "Culturebox," Jonah Weiner stated that Lil Wayne, left, was the first hip-hop artist to fantasize about eating his competition. Other rappers have contemplated consuming their rivals.
The Guardian: Gore Vidal was once head-butted by Norman Mailer, not the other way round. Vidal described the altercation as "marshmallow to marshmallow" when asked about it at the Hay festival 2008 (Diary, page 9, G2, May 27).
National Post (Canada): There is no documented evidence to suggest dance poles sold at Condom Shack cannot bear the weight of a user. An unsubstantiated claim appeared in a Post Homes feature on Saturday.
Most cutting correction
Private Eye (United Kingdom): Our item about Slough in the last issue said the leader of the Tory group on the council was Cllr Diana Coad. In fact that honour currently falls to one Derek Cryer. "Lady" Diana, who is also the party's parliamentary candidate for the town, merely behaves as if she is leader.
Apologies to the invisible man.
Writer of wrongs
Silverman of regrettheerror.com pays homage to the best Writer of Wrongs, the editor who "demonstrates wit and wisdom in the writing of corrections." This year that is David Hummerston, the Saturday editor/editorial counsellor and readers' editor of the West Australian. Here's a sample of Hummerston's work from 2008:
Old Sparky: The compilers and suppliers of our On This Day column deserve to learn a lot more about electric execution. The recidivist column wrongly stated that the first electric chair execution took place on July 7, 1890. In fact, it was Wednesday, August 6, 1890 in New York — ironically then known as The Electric City of the Future — that wife-killer William Kemmler became the first man executed in an electric chair. Although Dr. George C. Fell said Kemmler "never suffered a bit of pain", a reporter who also witnessed the execution wrote in the New York Herald the next day that "strong men fainted and fell like logs upon the floor."
Bad conduct: Charles Mackerras was not born in Australia (Emma hits heights, Today, page 6, December 1). The eminent orchestra conductor was born to Australian parents in 1925 in musical-sounding Schenectady, New York. Apropos of nothing, Schenectady was where, in 1886, the Machine Works company was set up by Thomas Edison, who also knew a thing or two about conductors.
In a roundup of errors two years ago, we at the St. Petersburg Times reprinted this "clarification" from Aug. 18, 1989. Because it's worlds apart, we're printing it again:
A drawing of the lunar eclipse in Wednesday's Times may have given the impression that the sun revolves around Earth, right. Earth, of course, revolves around the sun and the moon revolves around Earth.