Money or mitigating mistakes?

Would I have to relive parts of my twenties? OH, God, please, NO.

bluepillOne finds these on Facebook all the time. Would you rather have this large sum of money, or do something that would be perceived as nobler?

I look at these options, and the choice was surprisingly easy; I’d take the cash. This does not come from either greed or shallowness. Rather it is from the recognition that the mistakes I made – and to quote Sinatra, “I’ve made a few” – are what makes me, ME. This is NOT to say that there aren’t choices I’ve regretted, only that undoing them would mean I would presumably unlearn the lesson of my errors.

To play the scenario out, there’s no guarantee that fixing the mistakes would lead to a good result. I was struck by the fact, in the Stephen King novel 11/22/63, that the protagonist has to make several different attempts going back in time to try to thwart the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. More prosaically, there’s an irritating newish Disney show called Best Friends Whenever, about time-traveling teens, and they too find going back to fix things not so easy.

Would I have to relive parts of my twenties? OH, God, please, NO.

Sometimes mistakes are good. I was giving a presentation at the Friends of the Albany Public book review on The Gospel According to the Beatles. Some of the group’s greatest creativity came from “mistakes,” such as the line “two-foot small” in You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away, instead of “two-foot-tall.” Moreover, there is a philosophy that one should embrace errors as part of the serendipity of life. Many inventions were “mistakes,” someone trying to make something else.

Hey, maybe the mistake was not saving enough for retirement, or for The Daughter’s college fund. Taking the money would SOLVE the error.

Online, someone fretted that having lots of money would be too likely to change his life, a legitimate concern, giving the history of some lottery winners. I wrote:
Think of the things
You can do with that money
Choose any charity
Give to the poor
This reference to Caiaphas singing in Jesus Christ Superstar – Damned For All Time/ Blood Money – was totally lost on the participants, alas.

But what say YOU?

Opps – I mean, oops

Some people want to have corrections noted so that they may fix them.

NOT opps

One of the inevitable things about writing a daily blog edited by no one is that, now and then, I’ll get something wrong. (I know you are shocked, from that gnashing of teeth I’m hearing.)

Occasionally, it’s something that is substantial. I wrote about the Electoral College recently and said that Maine and Missouri were the two states that had a proportional allocation of EC votes when it was Maine and Nebraska; obviously, I had the Missouri Compromise of 1820 stuck in my mind, in which Maine joined the Union as a free state and Missouri as a slave state.

More common, though, are typos. Not typos, per se, but a word or a letter left out so that the spellcheck wouldn’t catch it. One time Arthur, who had also caught the previous mistake, found THREE errors in one of my pieces. I was SO angry, not at him, but at me. I was only mildly comforted when I could find a mistake of his.

I have discovered out is that some people like being corrected. Let me say that a better way: some people want to have corrections noted, so that they may fix them. I don’t LIKE being corrected, but I NEED the blog to be as write as it can – wait, as RIGHT as it reasonably can be. So do Arthur and Lisa.

I’ve made it a practice to e-mail folks with corrections whenever possible, rather than leaving it on the page, though it depends on the circumstances. Brian Ibbott has the podcast Coverville, and Arthur a couple of podcasts. If they write something in the description that’s incorrect, I’m going to e-mail them. But if they SAY something that’s incorrect on the podcast itself, I’m more likely to write something in the comments section.

Then there are those people who I NEVER correct. They may write well content-wise, but they make the same spelling errors over and over again; I won’t name names. Pointing out their mistakes, only to see them there the next time is too Sisyphean.


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.

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