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By Gina Channell Wilcox

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About this blog: I am President of Embarcadero Media's East Bay Division and the publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly, Dublin TriValley Views, San Ramon Express and Danville Express. As a 25-plus-year veteran of the media industry, I have experience...  (More)

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Fails and flubs: Notable mistakes and corrections of 2013

Uploaded: Jan 2, 2014
As we start a new year, it's time to make plans and set goals. It's also time to reflect on last year, and one of my favorite year-end reviews is the best (of the worst) corrections and media fails of the year.

Poynter Institute, a school for journalists and media leaders, has a blog called "Regret the Error" written by Craig Silverman. Fellow journalists send Silverman the funniest, weirdest, most puzzling corrections and failures offered by all forms of media from around the world. Please note that these were submitted by journalists not out of disrespect, and I am not listing these to mock or ridicule the writers, editors or publications. All professional news-gatherers realize that errors are going to occur. Some, though, because of the way they happen or they way they are handled, can be humorous. And just about all fails and flubs offer "learning experiences."

With a tip of the hat to David Letterman, I'm going to do my Top 10 media fails and corrections of 2013:

#10 An animated amicable association: "An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Bugs Bunny's most notorious enemy is Porky Pig. While the two are known to frequently squabble, often in the public eye, they are in fact good friends." ? Haaretz, Israel

#9 Dangerous names: "An earlier version of the Carlos Danger Name Generator suggested incorrectly that the Carlos Danger Name for Anthony Weiner is Armando Catastrophe. The Carlos Danger Name for Anthony Weiner is Carlos Danger." - Slate

(Yes, I tried the name generator. It still works.)

#8 Dishonorable description: "An Oct. 14 Style article about access to the prison camp for terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, incorrectly referred to Navy Capt. Robert Durand as "thickset." He should have been described as muscular." ? Washington Post

Makes you wonder who called in that request for a clarification, doesn't it? It was dubbed by the person who tweeted about it as the "Best Wash Post correction ever."

#7 What's in a name?: Headline: Chroinicle Herald claims six awards.

Correction (of sorts) posted by Chronicle Herald editor Trevor J. Adams on Facebook: "The Chronicle Herald wins six awards ? But none for proofreading."

#6 They put New Hampshire back on the map... literally: In a rare on-air correction, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams apologized for the station for wiping New Hampshire off the map.

"... we showed a map when we were zooming in to correspondent Katy Tur's live report. Play that back and hold it, you'll see what a few of our sharp-eyed viewers saw, including at least one U.S. senator. New Hampshire's gone. Vanished. It apparently moved to Vermont. New Hampshire was lost by our graphics department. It has since been found and put back."

Williams then reminded viewers of the "great things about New Hampshire" such as its great motto - "Live Free or Die" - and that the inventor of Tupperware and the person who created paper towels are both from New Hampshire.

#5 Silliness seven score and 10 years ago: In 1863, the Harrisburg, Pa. paper then known as the Patriot & Union published an editorial about Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address which said, in part: "We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of."

On the 150th anniversary the the speech, the paper - now known as the Patriot-News - wrote the following correction: "In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln's speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error."

The accompanying editorial in the same paper the editorial board ponders, "Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time ? " had a lapse in judgment. They also stated, "In the fullness of time, we have come to a different conclusion."

#4 Nip it: "A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston saying 'anyone with nipples' instead of 'anyone with a pulse.' " - Wired

Nipples? The author, Marcus Wohlsen, got "nipples" from "a pulse?" Distracted perhaps? With what? I don't want to speculate.

Wohlen later tweeted about the confusion: "Confirmation bias: I heard what I thought I heard - then I thought I heard it again ? aaaaaand I was wrong. #facepalm"

#3 Out of this world apology: "In an article on Saturday headlined 'Flying saucers over British Scientology HQ', we stated 'two flat silver discs' were seen 'above the Church of Scientology HQ.' Following a letter from lawyers for the Church, we apologise to any alien lifeforms for linking them to Scientologists." - The Sun, United Kingdom
I'm sure that pleased the lawyers.

#2 'Not strong in the ways of the force': "A Tampa Bay Times reporter not strong in the ways of the force (or Star Wars lore) quoted the event's moderator, Croix Provence, as asking: 'Are you ready to find love in all the wrong places?' What Provence actually said was: 'Are you ready to find love in Alderaan places?' She was referring to Princess Leia Organa's home world, which appeared briefly in the 1977 film. Regret the error, we do. " ? Tampa Bay Times

#1 Ho Lee Fuk, really?: The incorrect naming of the pilots in the Asiana plane crash at SFO by KTVU made it to YouTube probably less than 10 minutes after it aired. This is my #1 because, first, it's funny. I feel terrible for the anchor and the others who fell for the prank, but it is funny.
Second, and more importantly, I respect and appreciate the way the station handled the correction. They issued a sincere apology on all platforms - on air, online and on social media - and accepted full responsibility without trying to make excuses or pointing fingers.

On air, Frank Somerville said, "We made several mistakes when we received this information.... We take full responsibility for this mistake."

On Facebook, the station posted: "First, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out. Then, during our phone call to the NTSB where the person confirmed the spellings of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency. We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were and then rushed the names on our noon newscast."

Journalists aren't the only people to make mistakes and fail epically. (They just do it in public with thousands and thousands of people watching.) It's the way we handle the mistakes and failures -- and learning from them -- that builds character.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Amador Estates,
on Jan 3, 2014 at 10:04 am

What about the Pleasanton Weekly misspelling Pleasanton in a headline last week?

Posted by Gina Channell-Allen, a blogger,
on Jan 3, 2014 at 10:36 am

Gina Channell-Allen is a registered user.

Ha! Yep, we are busted. One of the salespeople saw that and I corrected it. At the very least it was not about the paper winning awards. (One of these days I will blog about some funny corrections from my past.)

We need to slow down... :)

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