Friday, November 24, 2006

Sweatin' to the Old Ones

This just in from the Rocky Mountain buro:

November 23, 2006
'At war with himself'
This story incorrectly stated that James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, believes people who don't practice what they preach should undergo an exorcism. His quote, in a TV interview about reaction to the firing of evangelical leader Ted Haggard for "sexual immorality," was: "Everybody gets exercised (worked up about it) when something like this happens, and for good reason."

This is a "telephone" error, so called from the grade-school game in which one sends a whisper around the room and compares the result with the original. And this example ranks with an all-time fave from 1990, in which a writer from the K-R Washington bureau interviewed a Mideast expert and came away with the pronouncement that Saddam Hussein wanted to be "the new Solomon of the Arab world." What the expert had said was "the new Saladin," but since Saladin wasn't the sort of concept that rang any bells at the Washburo, "Solomon" it was. Right up until the following week's correction.

What's a copy editor to do? Be suspicious. Sniff before you cook. In the case at hand, let your mind wander a bit. How long are the lines going to be if everybody has to get exorcised after any outbreak of sin and hypocrisy? Is exorcism sort of like getting a flu shot, or (hey, wasn't there a movie about this?) is it a little more complicated? Is there a general evangelical stance on exorcism, or do most evangelicals leave that up to the Pentecostals?

Well, Tommy this and Tommy that. Don't expect thanks for trying to keep errors out of the paper. Do it because it's the right thing. And not running corrections is so much more fun than running them, except for collectors.


Anonymous Bad News Barnes said...

This reminds me of a clipping my old man sent me back when I was toiling away at my alma mater under the likes of FEV.

In an AP story on a small plane crash that ran in my hometown paper, the reporter quotes someone saying the pilot was flying "high afar" before the crash.

My dad, not a newshound by any stretch, read that error and found it so funny/stupid he actually took the time to mail it to his journalist-in-training son. What the source had actually said was the pilot was flying IFR, pilotese for the "instrument flight rules" ,fliers follow when weather obscures important things like the ground.

Just thought I'd contribute another example of why you shouldn't quote people if you don't understand what they're saying or if their statement doesn't make any sense.

That's the kind of mistake readers, former readers and sources alike all talk about for a long time.

7:29 PM, November 24, 2006  
Anonymous Denise Covert said...

I think this points to the deeper problem of reporters thinking they're smarter than their sources. Because there's no way a reporter would possibly say, "I'm sorry, I don't understand that comment, could you please explain what you mean?"

1:56 PM, November 27, 2006  
Anonymous J said...

Let's not forget the 1996 New Yorker correction conceding that a writer had mistakenly quoted William Bennett as saying of Pat Buchanan's political views, "It's a real S & M kind of thing," when Bennett had actually said, "It's a real us-and-them kind of thing."

2:30 PM, November 27, 2006  
Blogger Dan said...

While we're at it, my favorite still has to be this one out of Dallas:

Norma Adams-Wade's June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite.

7:26 PM, November 27, 2006  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home