Regret the Error

The lowered standards are a function of cost-cutting, doing it fast, and a different ethos of publishing than what existed in the past.

One of my favorite websites is Regret the Error, which “reports on media corrections, retractions, apologies, clarifications and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in the press. It was launched in October 2004 by Craig Silverman, a freelance journalist, and author based in Montreal.”

Initially, or at least when I first came across the site, it merely linked to the foibles of the press; hey, as the logo notes, “Mistakes happen.” For instance, recently, the New York Times accidentally traded Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees to the Phillies.

But in recent months, the site has taken a more meta approach. For instance, What Typos Mean to Book Publishing bemoans the loss of “full-time copy editors and proofreaders to filter out an author’s mistakes”, shortcuts taken by publishers, and carelessness of authors.

The piece How to Correct Social Media Errors notes that “There’s no good way to notify those who read erroneous information and moved on, believing it to be true,” because most of those who tweeted or Facebooked the error-laden message may not have seen the follow-up.

Last month had a great link, Have newsrooms relaxed standards, sanctions for fabrication and plagiarism?

It seems that the three examples I cited have some factors in common. The lowered standards are a function of cost-cutting, doing it fast, and a different ethos of publishing than what existed in the past.

From the latter story, Poynter’s Kelly McBride says, “Some editors these days seem more willing to overlook minor plagiarism because it almost always involves writers trying to work fast, either because they have additional duties or because they are trying to publish to ride a wave of interest.”

Can these factors – on steroids – have contributed to the News of the World hacking scandal? Were the editors aware of the sources of the stories their reporters were brought to them or did they totally abdicate their responsibilities? Add hubris and a corrupting amount of power, over politicians and police alike, and you have a massive scandal.

More than one pundit has pointed to an ethics clause in the FCC licensing process requiring a licensee to be of “good character”. Could the Murdoch TV empire in the United States crumble?

Given the fact that a former FCC Commissioner could support the massive Comcast/NBC buyout back in January and become a Comcast lobbyist months later, makes me wonder. The former commissioner did seek ethics advice from FCC attorneys.

In ways big and small, I feel that our media outlets have often let us down, not necessarily in a Murdockian manner, but in a more pedestrian fashion. And I’m at a loss to figure out how to stop it.

Cranky

Computer problems gave me, quite literally, such a raging headache that I went to bed Sunday night at 9 pm, which is VERY early for me.

I see that Arthur is cranky; maybe it’s the summertime blues for him.

I’m cranky too, and it’s not just the cold and snow.

*The shooting of nearly two dozen people, including a Congresswoman, with six deaths, including a guy who shielded his wife from gunfire, and the nine-year-old granddaughter of a former MLB pitcher who was the only girl on her Little League team, made me more than just cranky; I found it emotionally devastating.

What made me extremely cranky, though, is the attempt by that so-called church from Kansas to picket the girl’s funeral today.

Earlier, I was also appalled by the insistence of several news organizations to pronounce the Congresswoman dead, when, in fact, she was not. Somehow, in the throes of the chaotic situation, the need to be first trumped the need to be accurate. It’s an error for which “oops” just doesn’t cut it.

I wrote a little something for our local newspaper’s blog, more as a way for me to cope than anything else. I used the now-infamous graphic targeting members of Congress, including Gabrielle Giffords, but the text, I thought, was rather restrained. In any case, all I needed to do was post and (mostly) get out of the way.

I did note in the comments, however, that the First Amendment-protected right to free speech is not absolute. What I didn’t say, because I did not know the facts at the time, is that the Second Amendment right to bear arms can be limited as well; the weapon the assailant used was banned in the US until 2004. Somehow, I DON’T feel safer now.

Incidentally, I found the most useful information about the shooting on C-SPAN, the website dedicated to Congress. For at least part of the time, it was using the feed of the ABC-TV affiliate in Tucson, the unfortunately named KGUN. Oddly, I had been watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy that afternoon, in which a young gunman shot up a campus; miraculously [spoiler alert], no one died, which, unfortunately, did not extend to the real-life drama.

*I get these e-mails about 365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy. Most of them are pretty lame, such as “Quote G. Gordon Liddy: ‘A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.'” Or “Always refer, in pitying, sympathetic tones, to the ‘Liberal psychopathology.’ This implies that liberalism is a form of mental illness. Which it is.” Or “If it’s cold outside, deploy Global Warming Fun…Say to every liberal you meet, at every opportunity: ‘Brrr, it’s cold. Makes you think we could do with a bit more global warming.'”

Oh, I’m SO crushed by these mean comments. What makes me cranky is the notion that 1) it should be one’s goal to annoy others, just because of political differences, and 2) that the examples are so reductivist.

*We’ve had a real winter this season, with weather forecasters having to do some heavy lifting (figuratively, at least). And, from my vantage point, they’ve been reasonably accurate. Yet I heard just this week that meteorologists are paid “$80,000 to be wrong 90% of the time.” Unfair, and untrue. What is particularly difficult in this particular region, is that, because of the topography, the snow amounts in the area, even in certain counties, could vary by half a foot.

*I’m having computer problems. When we (OK, I) got a virus in the laptop, it got scrubbed by the techie at the purchasing locale. Suddenly, we don’t have any word processing applications. The techie at Staples says we need to bring in the installation disc, but my friend says that Windows Vista doesn’t come with an installation disc, that I have to find the info on the computer and burn it onto a disc. Well, I can’t find it in there; maybe it got wiped, too. In any case, this gave me, quite literally, such a raging headache that I went to bed Sunday night at 9 pm, which is VERY early for me.

*The stationary bike is broken. One of my church buddies took it apart and found what seemed to be the broken part, but getting all the information necessary to identify the problem has turned out to be more laborious than I could have imagined.

*Sooner or later, we’re going to have to buy a new television, my first new one since 1987. When the volume is up moderately, it just kicks out periodically. You have to crank it up high enough for the set, which is downstairs, to be heard upstairs for the volume to be sustained.