Sunday, January 10, 2010

A New Record? NYT Publishes 36 Corrections Today, Including Eight On One Story -- And The Year's First From TV Critic Alessandra Stanley.

Sunday's always a big corrections day in the NYT -- it's the day when the paper posts corrections in all its special Sunday sections. It's not unusual to find a dozen or more mistakes fixed on any given Sunday.

But 36?

It may or may not be a record -- we don't have the energy to plow through more than 100 years of back issues -- but today's NYT corrections column is large as any we've been able to find in recent memory. And it's hard not to see the surge as a reflection of what happens to a newspaper that has lost more than 200 editorial employees to buyouts and layoffs in the last two years.

A whopping eight of today's corrections came from one piece, a Travel essay from T Magazine last November by freelance writer Maria Shollenbarger about Friesland, a Dutch province that has become a winter vacation destination. The NYT described it only as "a number" of errors, and explained that the correction was "delayed for research."

But one problem remains: when you go to the original article, the mistakes still stand uncorrected, and with no notation that a correction has been published. It's NYT procedure to fix its errors online, and to append a correction. Is the T Magazine -- with its swanky layouts that don't lend themselves to correction -- exempt from that policy?

(UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, we got an email from a T Magazine web producer telling us that the correction had at last been appended. "T is not exempt from the standard Times correction policy, the producer, Seth Carlson, told The NYTPicker. "In this case, the delay in appending the correction was a technical issue related to the recent redesign of the T website.")

It's worth noting that T: Travel has been prone to mistakes in the past. Last March, The NYTPicker noted eight separate corrections on one issue of the magazine. More recently, the magazine got into trouble for allowing a freelancer to promote her ex-boyfriend's burger restaurant in Miami -- a rule violation caught by The NYTPicker that earned an Editor's Note and a scolding from public editor Clark Hoyt.

Many of the other mistakes reflect sloppy reporting by NYT staffers that weren't caught by editors. Just a few examples:

Donald Trump is 63, not 62 -- a mistake made by metro reporter Alan Feuer.

The Four Seasons Restaurant is not affiliated with the Four Seasons Hotel, an editing error.

Whitestone is in Queens, not the Bronx, a mistake made by freelance contributor James Vescovi.

Today's NYT Magazine essay about "underwater mortgages" gets the identities wrong of those who incorrectly believe their mortgages will go up in value -- a mistake made by contributing writer Roger Lowenstein.

Comedian Jean Carroll was born on January 7, 1911, not January 6 (coincidentally -- or not -- Wikipedia makes the same error), and did not write for the soap opera "Our Gal Sunday." That was another Jean Carroll. Those mistakes were made by NYT obits writer Margalit Fox.

Other mistakes included an answer in last week's Education Life Pop Quiz, the spellings of various names, the gender of Cameron Barr (a man, not a woman), and several baseball statistics.

Today's correction column also marked the first mistake of 2010 for TV critic Alessandra Stanley, whose legendary carelessness culminated in a six-error correction last summer on her appraisal of Walter Cronkite's career.

In her Arts & Leisure column regarding men on television last week, Stanley incorrectly reported that the series "In Plain Sight" airs on TNT. It's a USA show.

Corrections are a fact of life in journalism -- in newspapers, on television, at websites -- and we don't usually make a habit of harping on the NYT's reporting of mistakes. A correction is an appropriate sign of contrition, and acknowledgement of human error.

But when the newspaper of record starts racking up this many corrections in a single day, maybe it's a sign that editors and reporters need to be a bit more vigilant in checking facts and copy before hitting the send key. Remember, 63-year-old Donald Trump will be watching you.

17 comments:

Orange said...

Gotta love the correction to a correction (the Ted Kennedy section of the corrections column). Can we get an infinitely recursive series of corrections?

CogSci Librarian said...

I wonder if these corrections will make it into the LexisNexis & other library database versions of the articles. Probably not.

Dave B said...

I've only read two articles from today's NYT (online), but found a typo in one of them (unless it's some new phrasing I'm unfamiliar with). In Maureen Dowd's column, 3rd from last graf: "But his inner certainly creates an outer disconnect." Umm, shouldn't that be "certainty"? An online-only typo, I'd hope.

Vadim Lavrusik said...

Perhaps it's not just a matter of "being more vigilant" but a sign in the strain of resources?

Mary said...

Corrections are a fact of life. And I appreciate that the Times is making the corrections in a visible way (though original articles should be amended with corrections show.) This only makes me more glad I teach editing and how it's even more important to teach folks to edit their own copy.

Anonymous said...

Ooops, just goes to show we're all human -
"...(though original articles should be amended with corrections show.) This only makes me more glad I teach editing and how it's even more important to teach folks to edit their own copy."

I do believe you meant to state, "with corrections shown.)"!

Anonymous said...

There are no perfect journalists, just as there are no perfect people. That's why corrections are important.

Anonymous said...

"But when the newspaper of record starts racking up this many corrections in a single day..."

While your larger points are worthy of noting, this is incorrect. The errors cited came from stories published on many different dates.

Michael Powell said...

It's Shollenbarger, not Shollenborger. But whatever. To err is human, or to be a reporter, anyway

Anonymous said...

It might be more accurate to list errors "in a story by" a particular reporter, rather than attribute the error solely to the writer. Editors can, and do, insert errors into copy.

Anonymous said...

Typically, an editing error says "because of an editing error." Not always, though. And sometimes multiple reporters and stringers contribute to an article, so it might not be true that the bylined reporter made the mistake. It is better to correct the record than to pretend there are no errors, the practice at the New York Post, the New York Sun and the Nose, er, NYT-picker.

Anonymous said...

You spelled acknowledgment wrong.

THE NYTPICKER said...

No, we didn't. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, either spelling is acceptable.

Anonymous said...

"The Four Seasons Restaurant is not affiliated with the Four Seasons Hotel, a mistake also made by Feuer."

Wrong. It was made by an editor. (Which is why the correction begins, "Because of an editing error ...")

THE NYTPICKER said...

You're right. It was an editing error, not Feuer's mistake. We'll correct the post.

Anonymous said...

uh, Margalit Fox's mistake about Leslie Buck designing the iconic Anthora coffee cup, Page One Obit, April 28, was also a fib.

Anonymous said...

some typos are what newsrooms call atomic typos, that is to say, typos that spell checks cannot find or fathom. Such as unclear instead of nuclear, or Sudan instead of sedan, or Gov. Christ instead of Gov. Crist. You should make a new dept at this site called Atomic Typos in the Times. And explain to readers here why atomic typos are called by that term, atomic. Google it to find a website devoted to same.