As 2007 approaches its deadline, it's time to look back at the media's biggest errors and most hilarious corrections. What follows is a sampling of some of the best of the worst from Regret the Error's annual round-up of the year in media errors and corrections. (Also note the Plagiarism/Fabrication Round-Up.)
Trend: Obama Errors
Barack Obama appears to be a magnet for press errors.
He was labeled as "Osama" in two (1,2) news reports by CNN, and in one by the New York Post. Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle once referred to him as a Republican, and the Hartford Courant has misspelled his first name on six different occasions dating back to 2004, with two of those instances occurring this year.
There was also an unfortunate typo in the New York Times that may have led some readers to think the Obamas have a rocky marriage:
A front-page article yesterday about the role that Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, is playing in his presidential campaign rendered incorrectly a word in a quotation from Valerie Jarrett, a friend of the Obamas who commented on their decision that he would run. She said in a telephone interview, "Barack and Michelle thought long and hard about this decision before they made it" - not that they "fought" long and hard.
And this from the Boston Globe:
Clarification: A story in yesterday's Nation pages about Mitt Romney mixing up Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden said that Fox News Channel president Roger Ailes had previously used the similarity between the names Osama and Obama to mock the senator. Fox News says Ailes was making a joke aimed at President Bush, not Obama, when Ailes said in a speech to broadcast executives in March: "And it is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don't know if it's true that President Bush called Musharraf and said, 'Why can't we catch this guy?'"
Lord help us if he gets the nomination.
Correction of the Year
One of the surest ways to produce a great correction is to write a scandalous article filled with salacious, untrue allegations. This year's winner is a correction to an April article in the Independent Saturday (UK) magazine:
Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published on 21 April 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, which we are happy to do, 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."
The Sentinel-Review (Woodstock, Ontario):
In an article in Monday's newspaper, there may have been a misperception about 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.
The Sentinel-Review apologizes for any embarrassment this may have caused.
Typo of the Year
The Houston Chronicle, like just about every other North American media outlet, spent a lot of time reporting on Anna Nicole Smith this past year. In attempting to explain her, um, humble origins, the paper gave itself a measure of comeuppance. And that's what makes it the typo of the year.
A photo caption in the paper read:
"When Redding, a longtime scout for Playboy, discovered Smith, the model could barely right a sentence..."
Who's illiterate now?
Apology of the Year
Sunday Times (UK):
An article about Lord Lambton ("Lord Louche, sex king of Chiantishire", News Review, January 7) falsely stated that his son Ned (now Lord Durham) and daughter Catherine held a party at Lord Lambton's villa, Cetinale, in 1997, which degenerated into such an orgy that Lord Lambton banned them from Cetinale 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) from Cetinale at all. We apologise sincerely to Lord Durham for the hurt and embarrassment caused.
In November, the Associated Press picked up a story from the World Entertainment News Network that reported Paris Hilton was in India advocating on behalf of drunken elephants.
"The elephants get drunk all the time," she said. "It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them."
Like, totally. Except the tale was totally false. WENN later said it picked up the story from the Daily Star, a UK tabloid. AP had put in a call to a Hilton spokesperson, but didn't wait to hear back before putting out its version.
When contacted by the New York Times, the AP entertainment editor said, "The irony in the story was obvious. But it doesn't change the fact that you have to verify it. This time we didn't, and we got burned."
Most Delayed Correction
The New York Times:
A caption on June 8, 1944, with a photograph of Army officers at mess on the Pacific front, misspelled the given name of the first officer seated at the left side of the table. He was Col. Girard B. Troland of New London, Conn. - not Gerand. The error was called to the attention of the editors by his grandson yesterday.
Best Error About Error
The New York Times:
A headline on a report in The Caucus roundup yesterday, about The New York Post's error in reporting that Senator John Kerry had chosen Richard A. Gephardt as his running mate in 2004, misstated the famous headline in The Chicago Daily Tribune in 1948 when the paper declared the wrong winner in the presidential race. The headline was "Dewey Defeats Truman," not "Dewey Beats Truman."
Best Correction with Things Left Unexplained
The Intelligencer Journal:
A photograph accompanying a story about Teen Challenge in Saturday's Intelligencer Journal incorrectly identified the subject, who is the Rev. James Santiago.
The story included an incorrect identification of Santiago's wife, Pam. Also, Santiago was addicted to crack cocaine for 12 years.
The Washington Post:
Army Spec. Hugo Gonzalez was misidentified in two photo captions with the Oct. 1 installment of the Left of Boom series, and his rank was incorrect on Page One. Also, in some editions of the Oct. 2 installment of the series, the full name of an EFP, a type of weapon used by insurgents, was incorrectly given as "explosively formed perpetrator." It should have been "explosively formed penetrator."
Read the rest here.