Tuesday, December 26, 2006


The first of the year-end corrections columns has shown up, and -- gloria in excelsis Deo -- it doesn't live up to its billing! The Houston Chronicle's James Campbell* discusses the year in blunders, but citing the numbers is as close as he gets to the hed's claim to be "Doing the year-end math on the paper's corrections." And that brings us to the first of today's reminders:

It is forbidden to draw inferences by comparing this year's total of corrections to last year's.

Somebody's always saying the paper's more accurate than last year, or that its Resolute Striving for accuracy has paid off, or something like that. All such conclusions are bogus and must be relegated to the ash heap of history. These numbers are interesting as descriptive stats go, but all they tell you is whether you've run more or fewer corrections this year than last year. Smart papers don't try to compare them.

While we're at it, alas, a few further reminders need to be issued:

Florida's Christmas Miracle
Some injured, but nobody killed ...

Ah, the cousins at Fox: So much to learn about editing, so little time! Dear Foxoids: The desk doesn't do "miracles." We have enough trouble with "grammar" and "spelling." Hence, reminder the second:

The copydesk leaves proclamations about the supernatural to the relevant ecclesiastic authorities. Forever without exception Amen.

And this from the big daily in the capital of HEADSUP-L's home state:

Chatter about N.C. tragedies abounds online
Got a theory about the deaths of Michelle Young or Peyton Strickland, or about the Duke lacrosse case? In the virtual world, strangers dish about real tragedies.

Sigh. Reminder the Third:

"Macbeth" is a tragedy. "Murder" is a gruesome crime. "Prosecutorial ineptitude" is an offense against the administration of justice. Try not to get the concepts confused, OK?

Dear N&O: For the upcoming year, please try not to toss words around at random (as in "A Christmas outing turned tragic near Wendell"). Death doesn't get sadder or more senseless, or the role of the media more comforting, by dressing the grislier variants up as "tragedies."

And which rocket surgeon decided to lump the Duke lacrosse case in among the tragedies? What's the scenario here: the DA wakes up one morning and finds a bunch of ceorls dressed up as Duke Forest surrounding his castle?

Those are your warnings for the New Year. No miracles. No tragedies. And no inferential comparisons of last year's corrections with this year's. Got it? I mean ho-ho-ho.

* All in all, not a bad little summary, though Campbell's a bit coy with:
Unpublished corrections are those factual errors that are corrected for our archives to avoid repeating the error. Readers won't see them in the paper.
I'd sort of like to know which "factual errors" fall into this category. If it's fabricated assertions about the Near East or public-opinion polling, to name two favorite targets of the fast-fading year, readers very much need to be seeing them in the paper, no matter the embarrassment it might cause the staff.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we also get a ban on puns regarding natural disasters? In Daytona Beach, home of the Christmas tornadoes, the hammer hed Tuesday was "Twistmas." (With chipper subhed below: Hundreds lose homes!)

Could have been worse -- an earlier version of the head was "Christmess."

Is there a line forming to smack someone?

10:42 AM, December 27, 2006  
Anonymous linray said...

It's far less idiotic than Daytona's, but nonetheless numbing. Here's the usual suspect head from the Columbus Dispatch:
main deck-Fighting knows no holiday
If Iraqis were ankle-deep in blood on Islamic holidays, and they were, why should we even think they might lighten up for the Crusaders' holiday?

12:45 PM, December 27, 2006  

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