Vanity Fair had to make a small correction to their recent Chelsea Clinton profile. Relatedly, check out our big piece on how facts do (or often don’t) get checked at your favorite magazines and radio shows.
This must’ve been one heckuva correction to have to write. No knock on interior designers (some of my best friends are interior designers) but to mix up the interior designer with an assistant secretary in the State Department is a pretty big one.
But, none of us are perfect, so here are the a few corrections run or considered to right the wrongs in articles bearing my name:
- Biggest one?: Covering a huge air show for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, I referred to the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds as the Blue Angels, which we all know is the flying group of the U.S. Navy. And if you didn’t know that, I have a few dozen angry emails and letters that will set you straight.
I think they should join forces and become the Blue Thunderbirds.
- In reporting a story for The Pittsfield Gazette I used the word reign when I should’ve used the word rein. Whoa Nelly!
- The same woman who wrote in to point out the rein/reign mistake also pointed it out when I referred to Roman Catholic churches as ‘yolking’ as opposed to ‘yoking’. We titled that correction “Egg on our face”. I bear no ill will to this grammarian in our readership. She was once my neighbour. She and her husband gave my parents a lovely porch swing.
- I swapped pronouns accidentally once at The Pittsfield Gazette, and wrote ‘he’ where it should have said ‘she’, but we didn’t end up correcting that because it was only once in a long article. Snuck by on that one, but clearly I’ve carried it around with me in the decade since.
A few months later I was copy editing a piece for The Massachusetts Daily Collegian on the first transgendered bathroom being put in place at UMass-Amherst. I felt that editing challenge was karmic revenge because in a story featuring the often-misunderstood transgendered community, the appropriate pronouns are not always the obvious ones.
- My favourite correction is one that never had to be run. When I was writing obituaries at The Daily Hampshire Gazette I got a call one morning complaining about an obituary that had run the day prior, and the caller was demanding a correction. I had listed a surviving sister of the deceased that had not been included in the original information from the family. The funeral home had called in the addition, which was protocol. Here is a fairly accurate portrayal of that phone conversation, with pseudonyms included:
Scott: So, is *Nancy* not *Jane’s* sister.
Complainant: Not exactly.
Scott: So she is her sister?
Complainant: Um. Yes.
Scott: Oh, I listed her as surviving. Is she deceased?
Complainant: Um. No.
Complainant: Well, she’s alive. And she’s her sister. But we don’t like her.
Scott: Oh. Well I’m not sure there’s much we can do about that.
Complainant: Yeah, I suppose there isn’t. *hangs up*
So that’s my corrections run-down. Minor or major, they’re a big part of journalism – correcting your mistakes, that is – and certainly something to accept. The fight to never be corrected is futile, but I suppose if it makes you more attentive, then the correction has served its purpose.