Supplemental: A day in the life of the nation’s corrections!


Saxophones and Casino Royale and edenic Lake Eden oh my:
Our journalists are meticulous with their corrections as long as there’s nothing at stake.

By way of contrast, if the public has been grossly misled in a major embarrassing way, this fact may perhaps disappear.

How about a few examples in support of our first observation?

In this morning’s New York Times, the newspaper offers this correction concerning a saxophone player:

A Critic’s Notebook article on Wednesday about Kendrick Lamar’s new album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” using information from the liner notes, misspelled the surname of a saxophonist who performs on it. He is Adam Turchin, not Turchan.

Duly noted! That said, it was a big day for saxophone errors. This correction came next:

A picture caption on Tuesday about a performance at the Village Vanguard in Manhattan misstated the given name of the saxophonist who led the quartet that played. As the review of the performance and another picture caption correctly noted, he is Charles Lloyd, not Charlie.

Also today, the Times noted that it’s “the National Honor Society, not the National Honors Society.” The James Bond film was Casino Royale. It wasn’t Casino Royal!

(Have you been to North Carolina lately? Black Mountain College is near Lake Eden. It isn’t near Eden Lake!)

We don’t mean to knock the Times. It’s appropriate for the Times to make these tiny corrections.

But back in August 2014, an utterly bogus set of claims were made all over cable and network news by a trio of alleged eyewitnesses. As of last week, the Justice Department had thrown those alleged eyewitnesses, along with their claims, under a big yellow bus.

The American public was given a set of bogus ideas about a widely-debated, important event. But since no one’s name had been slightly misspelled, little effort is being made to correct the record!

This returns us to the recent correction-shaming directed at Jonathan Capehart.

In an on-line piece at the Washington Post, Capehart tried to correct the record about the shooting of Michael Brown, based on the recent factual findings of the Justice Department.

Over at the new Salon, Professor Cooper pounded Capehart for this “play,” for reasons which, we’ll have to say, are not entirely clear.

As we read the professor’s piece, it occurred to us that factual accuracy may not be her strong suit in the classroom. On three occasions, she refers to Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, as “teenagers” or as “the two teen boys.”

No, it doesn’t exactly matter. But has the professor done the basic background reading here at all?

The late Michael Brown was a teenager on that unfortunate day. He was just 18 years old.

Johnson, his friend, was not a teen; he was 22. As he explained in his grand jury testimony (and elsewhere), he considered himself a bit of a mentor to his younger friend.

By the standards of an org like Salon, Cooper’s error is pointless enough to merit brisk correction. But once again, we’ll ask the key question:

The professor knows the narrative here; it’s clear that she knows it by heart. Has she done any background reading on the basic facts of the case? Does she know any facts at all?

In closing, let’s make the ultimate point:

For years, we've told you something about our clownish public discourse. Facts play almost no role in our discourse. It’s narrative all the way down.


  1. I'm not sure it is narrative all the way down. I think it is racial polarization all the way down. There is a black view and a white view. The facts of this case are a proxy for which race you support (or identify with). If you are black or liberal and support the cause of civil rights, then you must support the story that Brown was executed with his hands in the air, no matter what the facts. If you are white or conservative and support police, then you must support the story that Wilson feared for his life and was just doing his job, no matter what the facts. Truth is somewhere in the middle and it doesn't seem to serve either pole completely. That no-man's land is dangerous ground to occupy in the middle of a societal battlefield. Polarized people don't do nuance, dislike grey, cannot handle anyone they cannot readily classify into one camp or the other.

    Somerby is right to direct people to the facts and to try to sort out the misstatements by the media. He is naïve if he thinks doing so will change anything about our racial animosities now confounded with politics. Increasingly I am attracted to the no-labels people, but I don't know what they stand for.

    1. If they don't stand for the insanity that comes from either the mainstream left or right now, they're already better than both.

    2. Except that Somerby directs people to the "facts" in one report, and not the other that gives the context to why the death of Michael Brown infuriated people in that community.

      And he does it in such an inflammatory way that he is indistinguishable from Fox News, that great purveyor of polarization.

  2. Yes sir, its turtles all the way down. No truth at the top no truth all the way down. Very disheartening. Don't know how you do it everyday Mr. Somerby.

  3. Oh my! Dorian Johnson isn't a "teen"! He is the ripe old age of 22!

    With that grand nugget, Somerby then launches into yet another robust attack on for the crime of daring to take issue with a column Somerby agrees with!

    You know what? Perhaps Somerby should set aside his own zeal and his own notion of thinking he knows everything, and perhaps he should consider Cooper's basic point which is this: You don't have to be perfect to have your life protected, especially by those sworn to protect it.

    1. Did you notice that Johnson was not shot? Most likely that was because he didn't attack a cop. You don't have to be white to have your life protected. You need to not attack cops.

      There is a big gap between "being perfect" and attacking cops. You also missed the point that Wilson did protect a life on that day -- his own. When someone, teen or not, attacks a cop it is anyone's guess who else he might attack. That's why someone like Wilson is empowered to get out of his car and stop Brown as he was running away.

    2. Who argued that anyone has to be "perfect" in order to be protected?

    3. Did you notice that Johnson ran away and took cover?

      And there is quite the open question, whether you believe Wilson or Johnson, over who attacked whom.

      So why not just admit you don't have the slightest clue which one is telling the truth, so it would make you look rather stupid pretending you know anything for a fact.

    4. And the bottom line: Somerby has glommed onto the nit that Dorian Johnson isn't a teenager to discredit another columnist he disagrees with, without out bothering to consider the rest of Cooper's arguments.

      Nope, you can dismiss them out of hand. She got Johnson's age wrong.

      Note to Somerby: That kind of weakass argumentation is expected only out of high school sophomores in a debate tournament, and it loses them points. Big time.

    5. Easy to ignore all those witnesses who saw Brown attack Wilson.

    6. Easy to think a report you haven't read says a lot of witnesses said Brown "attacked" Wilson when you reached that conclusion a long time ago and all you read is talking points that you already agree with.

    7. Witnesses 102 and 103 saw Brown attack Wilson, and the DOJ considered their testimony more credible than Dorian Johnson's. Correct or incorrect?

    8. Witness 102, a football field and a half away, did not report he saw Brown attack Wilson. Witness 103 did not report he saw how the struggle at the SUV began, only that during it he saw Brown get in some blows at Wilson.

      People at the scene and in the same vehicle saw different things. Readers here, who only have a stationary printed object to view can't get their facts consistent with a printed page.

  4. In 2001, my friend Judith Weis, who was then president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, was mentioned in William Safire's "On Language" column, but misspelled as "Weiss".

    She notified the Times, but no correction appeared. However, in posting this, I see there is now a correction appended to the original column at the link. Make of this what you will.

  5. I have a less benign view than Somerby on the background of the corrections that newspapers publish...I think the newspapers are trying to convey two ideas, neither of which is true:

    1) We, the newspaper, care deeply about the accuracy of the stories we publish...why, we feel so badly about even the most picayune of errors that we publish corrections!

    2) The corrections we (the newspaper) publish are the most egregious errors we make

  6. Anonymous at 641, can you tell us what the DOJ thought of John son's testimony?

  7. While we are on the subject of inflammatory charges and lack of media corrections.

    Shall we review the recent Howler coverage of Ferguson for a comparison?

    Shall we look at how the Howler covered Susan Rice and how many times it mentioned certain media institutions versus others.

    Or shall we dare look at the repeated narrative of D'Leisha Dent "can't get accepted into a four year college" which began after she already had been accepted?

    The latter matter is interesting because you could almost say this:

    "By the standards of an org like (the Howler) (Somerby's) error (was) pointless enough to merit brisk correction. But once again, we’ll ask the key question:

    The (blogger created) the narrative here; it’s clear that (he) knows it by heart. Has (he) done any background reading on the basic facts of the case? Does (he) know any facts at all?

    1. She didn't get accepted into a college that requires getting accepted to.

    2. She had been awarded a scholarship to a four year college before Baltimore Bob, the "background reader" of basic facts began writing misiniformation about her.

      But you can rationalize his error all you want. He will never acknowledge it. He would rather criticize others for not correcting their mistakes.

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