Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Owning up, memorably

"We said that, in the American TV drama 24, Jack Bauer, the counter-terrorism 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).

This "skinback," as Chicago newsies like to call editorial corrections of errors, appeared in the Guardian earlier this year. It is one of many scores of the best skinbacks of 2008 celebrated today on Regret the Error, a noted blog devoted to the subject of cleaning up after one's journalistic messes.

It is difficult to read the long, long blogpost without guffawing uncontrollably and losing track of time, so make sure the boss's not around when you go there.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press was the source for all too many embarrassing errors that crept into print. One of my favorites:

"In a story about Obama’s plans for a vice presidential pick, AP noted that McCain was considering Sen. Joe Lieberman, 'the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.' (Emphasis added.)"

At least four news websites published the sentence as written, confirming the suspicions of many former copy editors that you can't believe everything (anything?) you read on your computer.

Some skinbacks were just baffling, such as this one from the New York Times:

"Because of a production error, some copies of Wednesday’s paper contain an outdated crossword puzzle and its solution. If you look here first, proceed with caution. If the answer in the solution to one across also appears in the puzzle above it, you have a paper with the wrong crossword. If the solution to one across matches Tuesday’s puzzle, you’re in the clear, and on your own."

The most woeful corrections are the ones that make new errors. I was guilty of that a few days ago when I admitted in a comment to one of my blogposts that I had misspelled the Illinois governor's name as "Blagojevic" instead of the proper Americanization, "Blagojevich."

"Blagojevic" would have been correct in his ancestral Croatia, I wrote, figuring that knowledge would take some of the sting off my error.

Trouble is that his forebears came from Serbia, not Croatia.

[A tip of the hat to Jim Romenesko for the heads-up.]

1 comment:

  1. Re: the Lieberman correx: Some of us don't think the original was incorrect at all!