Having spent nearly 20 years in journalism all told, I saw plenty of unintentional errors show up in print, some by my own hand and others by friends and co-workers.
Given that thousands and thousands of bits of information appear in even the smallest daily newspapers, mistakes and subsequent corrections are a regular companion of journalists everywhere. Occasionally, they offer a bit of levity.
Most corrections, or their cousin, the clarification, are pretty straightforward, with the goal being to mend the mistake without repeating the error unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Sometimes, however, corrections are necessarily hilarious.
Consider this from the Oct. 30, 2014, edition of the New York Times, which came in the form of a letter to the editor:
To the Editor:
I was grateful to see my book “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage” mentioned in Paperback Row (Oct. 19). When highlighting a few of the essays in the collection, the review mentions topics ranging from “her stabilizing second marriage to her beloved dog” without benefit of comma, thus giving the impression that Sparky and I are hitched. While my love for my dog is deep, he married a dog named Maggie at Parnassus Books last summer as part of a successful fund-raiser for the Nashville Humane Association. I am married to Karl VanDevender. We are all very happy in our respective unions.
There’s also the unintentionally funny – although one is certain the reporter and editor didn’t get much of a chuckle out of having to put together the following, which appeared in the April 11, 1996, edition of the Spokane Spokesman-Review:
An April 5 story stated that Mary Fraijo did not return a reporter’s calls seeking comment. Fraijo died last December.
And then there are those corrections which leave one scratching one’s head as to how they could possibly have come about. Thus, we have, from the May 10, 2016, The New York Times, this:
Because of an editing error, an article on Monday about a theological battle being fought by Muslim imams and scholars in the West against the Islamic State misstated the Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, one of Muslim leaders speaking out. It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.
The number “786” appears to have some importance to some Muslims, at least on the Indian subcontinent; something about giving numeric values to the Arabic letters of the opening words of the Koran. However, it is not a widely held belief among Muslims.
Even so, one would think that given the overall conservative nature of most Muslim leaders, the handle “Pimpin4Paradise” would be viewed as a red flag – a bright, flaming- red flag.
One could see “Pimpin4Paradise786” maybe getting by, say, the editors at the local Peterborough Prattler, but the New York Times? Oy!