Sunday, June 26, 2005

And the foreign desk springs into action

Had to share this one, in part to remind the Missourian that other papers are equally capable -- sometimes more capable -- of writing disingenuous, question-dodging corrections. Here are some excerpts of one from today's Paper o'Record (do check out the original sometime, if only to see how morbidly overwritten a correction can be):

An essay on Page 15 of The Times Magazine ... misidentifies the hometown of Gov. Mike Easley of North Carolina. ... He grew up in Rocky Mount, not in the hills near Greenville.

Here's the offending sentence (OK, again, part of it) from the original: Hank and his neighbors remind him of the people he grew up with in the hills near Greenville.

The correction leaves with you the impression that there are two places at issue, Rocky Mount and some hills near Greenville, and that the writer merely placed the governor in the wrong one. Not quite. There is a Rocky Mount, and it's pretty near Greenville (go up to Bethel and turn left), but there's no such place as "the hills near Greenville" because there are no hills near Greenville, which is in the forgodsake coastal plain (it is also the official HEADSUP-L Hometown of Record, so pardon us if we get exercised). The Times has decided, again, that it Really Doesn't Matter what you write about distant states, since ... well, I don't know. Maybe somebody at the Times will explain. Didn't anybody tell them the Steinberg map was a parody?

It's amusing in part because some colleagues and I at a smallish southern fount o'knowledge had a very similar conversation with a Times desk back in January '85 regarding this sentence and its surrounding story:

The state that produced the dark writings of Thomas Wolfe and the folksiness of the actor Andy Griffith still grows more tobacco than any other state, still holds a hollering contest every year for the mountain folk at Spivey's Corner and still celebrates Mule Day* in Benson to honor that fine farm animal.

In comparative terms, there are about as many mountains in Spivey's Corner as there are apple orchards in the Garment District. Like zed. It's in the aforementioned painfully flat coastal plain, as, oh, 15 to 30 seconds with a map would tell you. The Times's response: "Well, they let mountain people enter it, don't they?"

So copyeds, never venture into the world of the world wire without your atlas at hand. Some papers do. The end result is rarely pretty.

* That's Mule Days to you, bubba.

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