Mea Culpas

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For KCRW, I'm Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun with Minding the Media.

We all make mistakes once in a while. But for journalists, whose job often involves pointing out the errors of others, getting something wrong can be fatal to a career.

It can also be really funny.

Herewith, we present Craig Silverman's list of the most egregious mistakes and corrections in journalism for 2007.

Silverman, a Canadian journalist with a keen eye, created the website three years ago to highlight the blunders of his brethren in the business.

For instance, you'd think it would be easy to get a name right, but Barack Obama was called 'Osama' twice this year on CNN and once by the New York Post. The Houston Chronicle once referred to him as a Republican, and the Hartford Courant misspelled his first name twice this year and on four other occasions dating back to 2004.

A correction in the New York Times said that an article about the role of Obama's wife in his presidential campaign rendered incorrectly a quote from a friend of the couple. She had said, "Barack and Michelle thought long and hard about (his decision to run) before they made it," not that they fought long and hard.

"One of the surest ways to produce a great correction is to write a scandalous article filled with salacious, untrue allegations," Silverman says. This year's winner referred to an article in England: "Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published… in the Independent Saturday magazine, Ms. Blair's representatives have told us that she was friendly with but never had a relationship with Carole Caplin of the type suggested in the article. They want to make it clear… that Ms. Blair has never shared a shower with Ms Caplin, was not introduced to spirit guides or primal wrestling by Ms Caplin (or anyone else), and did not have her diary masterminded by Ms. Caplin."

Silverman's Apology of the Year also came from the U.K., in the Sunday Times: "An article about Lord Lambton… falsely stated that his son Ned (now Lord Durham) and daughter Catherine held a party at Lord Lambton's villa… which degenerated into such an orgy that Lord Lambton banned them… for years. In fact, Lord Durham does not have a sister called Catherine (that is the name of his former wife), there has not been any orgiastic party of any kind and Lord Lambton did not ban him (or Catherine)… at all. We apologise sincerely to Lord Durham for the hurt and embarrassment caused."

Another British paper, the Daily Telegraph, admitted that a story about Liz Hurley's wedding "wrongly stated that the actress is holding a pheasant shoot on the Sunday after the ceremony. Game shooting is of course illegal on Sundays... We apologise for the error and accept that if any shooting is to be done it will be by the paparazzi, who have no season and do not observe the Sabbath."

The Sentinel-Review in Woodstock, Ontario, wrote that it misrepresented "why a Woodstock man is going to Afghanistan on a voluntary mission. Kevin DeClark is going to Afghanistan to gain life experience to become a police officer when he returns, not to shoot guns and blow things up."

Under Error of the Year, Silverman lists a story in August on the state-owned Russian TV network RTR, which used a striking image of a submarine to illustrate a story about a Russian voyage to the Arctic.

Reuters distributed the image around the world, and it was used by NBC Nightly News. Days later, it emerged that RTR's image was actually taken from the film Titanic.

"So who was the first to discover this?" Silverman asked. "Another media outlet? A submarine expert?" No, it was a 13-year-old boy in Finland.

Happy holidays.

This is Nick Madigan of The Baltimore Sun, Minding the Media on KCRW.



Nick Madigan