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The correction heard 'round the world

October 12, 2010 - 11:57 AM
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By now you've probably seen the correction reporter Amanda Hess published Monday, in which she acknowledges wrongly writing that "one in three black men who have sex with me is HIV positive. In fact, the statistic applies to black men who have sex with men."

The correction quickly went viral across the Internet, retweeted at least 658 times, leading to more than 10,000 clickthroughs, and shared to Facebook 747 times, receiving 1,098 up votes on Reddit (the top supplier of traffic to this post) as of noon, and all of that still rising. It was noted on sites such as Fark and Gawker. We all had a good chuckle here -- the humor of the "me/men" mixup is as unmissable as it is unfortunate.

On some sites, the discussion was joined with the sort of innuendo and vile comments that anything about women, sex and/or race inevitably attracts online. That part is disappointing, but also predictable.

Now that you've had your laugh, I hope you'll also note the commitment to accuracy that this demonstrates.

We explained in a blog post before TBD.com ever launched that "we will be as aggressive in correcting our mistakes as we were in making them. Each article or blog item that includes a mistake will carry highly visible correction... The corrections policy will apply to all errors of fact as well as misspellings of proper nouns and the like. Errors than can be classified as typos will get a pass."

Knowing it would bring some mild embarrassment and also awaken the Internet trolls, Hess could have chalked up the missing "n" as a typo, quietly changed it and moved on. But Hess wrote the correction anyway.

We make it easy for you to tell us about needed corrections and we are committed to always correct mistakes, whether they are big, important ones or small but embarrassing ones.

NOTE: Hess will be discussing the correction Tuesday at 4:30 on TBD TV news with Morris Jones.



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  1. Danny Bloom Danny Bloom

    Danny Bloom

    Oct 17, 2010 - 01:09:32 AM

    Paul, i am told that Erik Wemple's memo was intentionally mis-spelled there, re the THAN instead of THAT, to make a point. Erik?

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  2. Danny Bloom Danny Bloom

    Danny Bloom

    Oct 17, 2010 - 01:07:30 AM

    Jeff, everyone here is ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the newsroom: the atomic typo. Amanda's typo was not spotted by her spellcheck machine because both me and men are good words and spellcheck did not set off any alarms. Atomic typos are words that spellcheck cannot find because they are good words; only human eyes can find them in context of the sentence. There is a blog on atomic typos and the term was coined by CF Hanif in 2002 or so at the Palm Beach Post. you should do a story one day about this new kind of typo, that spellcheck cannot see. That's why Amanda got punked by her own spellchecker. We need human eyes. Google it. -- danny in Taiwan, over and out re 0 By Jeff Sonderman (Twitter

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  3. lukobe lukobe

    Benjamin Lukoff

    Oct 14, 2010 - 02:17:42 AM

    This is indeed why copyeditors are necessary. Of course, most won't work for free, and since online media is having a hard enough time making money as it is, it's not surprising. Speaking of the incorrect credit, it's still incorrect. The photo is being credited to Wikimedia Commons, but, as a friend pointed out, that's like crediting a photo to Flickr. Wikimedia Commons is simply where the image was found. As you can see at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BayardRustinAug1963-LibraryOfCongress.jpg, the photo was taken by Warren K. Leffler for U.S. News & World Report. In this case, the photo happens to have been placed in the public domain, so there's no copyright holder to speak of. Kudos to TBD for not re-posting an unattributed copyrighted photo! But a proper correction would have identified the photographer.

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