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Melissa Kirsch

Melissa Kirsch

Posted: May 19, 2008 12:55 PM

New York Times Obituary Correction Watch: We'll Fix It When We Get Around To It


Today brings even more peculiarities from the Department of Corrections at the Grey Lady.

An obituary on Sept. 14, 2007, about a photo historian and innovative dealer in photographic equipment misspelled his surname at one point. He was Fred Spira, not Shira. It also misspelled his given name at birth and referred to him incorrectly in recounting how he was barred from attending high school in Austria because his father was a Jew. He was born in Vienna as Siegfried Franz Spira, not Sigfried, and was known in his youth as Siegfried, not Franz. (After emigrating to the United States, he changed his name to S. Franklin Spira but preferred to be called Fred.). Mr. Spira's son Jonathan brought the errors to the attention of The Times last year and again last month; this correction was delayed because editors and a reporter did not follow through on the complaint.

So here we have a slew of errors that took over eight months for the Times to correct, even though the deceased's son brought the errors to the attention of the paper twice during that time. That's an awful long time to sit on that many corrections.

What is more interesting to me is the reason offered by the paper for the delay: "[T]his correction was delayed because editors and a reporter did not follow through on the complaint." Is there a drawer in the obit department where they shove all the corrections that come in, then tend to as they get the urge? An amorphous, impersonal mass of "editors" are blamed, and then one sole, unnamed reporter is fingered. I'm assuming that reporter is the writer of the obituary, Dennis Hevesi -- who, unless there's more than one reporter by that name at the Times -- is the brother of former NY State Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Which is not to say that Dennis' slip-ups compare in scope to his brother's (you'll recall Alan Hevesi stepped down in disgrace after admitting he'd used state funds to outfit his wife with a chauffeur), but it bears noting all the same.

Previously:

-New York Times Violates (At Least) Ten Commandments of Journalism in Reporting Charles Heston's Death

-New York Times Correction Tally on Heston Obituary Now Officially Farcical


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