Home » Apologies & Retractions» interviews Craig Silverman, author of the new book, “Regret The Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech.” Silverman is founding editor of
[ Part I ]

Jeremy: Could we just start out first of all by just talking about the book. How … what the genesis of it was? How you came to be interested in this, maybe even a little bit of background about your journalistic background, and how this thing came into being?

Craig: Sure. The book really grew out of a site, which I launched in October 2004, and that arose because, I guess, two factors: One, I saw there were so many great media blogs out there, I kind of wanted to join the party a little bit, and then on top of that I figured, OK, but I need to find a niche, and I started looking at corrections, and I started looking into accuracy, and I realized, one, obviously, it’s perfect content for a blog, because the corrections are short; they’re often humorous and that kind of thing, but two – and this was the more surprising thing – nobody was really doing it. There was a real lack of consistent reporting, and discussion about accuracy, about corrections, about errors, so it just seemed to be a viable niche, but it seemed to be filling an important place where people weren’t really paying a lot of attention. And so, a couple of years of doing the site, I built up like probably the largest collection of corrections [anywhere] … following the issue, reporting on it, writing about it. And the book just seemed like a natural way to get it out to even more people.

Jeremy: And how – I mean, sort of starting from the beginning of this, how was it received right away when you were collecting these things? How were new … I would imagine that newspapers have a certain response, of people that were being featured on your blog. What were sort of responses that you were getting from them, and then also from readers?

Craig: The response has been really gratifying, not only because obviously people have paid attention, but the first day there were about 10,000 people who came to the site. It got linked from a couple of big media sites, and I actually … I’m really happy to say I haven’t received a single negative comment from anybody at a newspaper who’s had their correction on the site, or from a reporter who’s had something written about them, or something like. I think that’s a really positive thing. It shows that people do care about the issue, that they are seeing a constructive discussion about it. It’s an important thing, so the reaction from journalists as a whole has been really positive, in fact, I do have editors and publications in different places who send me their own corrections from their publication, or who enjoy sending in the competitors’ corrections. That’s a pretty popular thing to do, and it’s not such a surprise.

J: Yeah, I would imagine so. And so people come to see your site as a sort of clearing house of information? Or what is your perception of the way that your Web site is being perceived by the public – [among] professionals and the public?

C: From the feedback I get people are sort of getting the larger message of it, which is a gratifying thing, that, yes, corrections are funny, and some of them are awful, but the fact that I’m sort of tying together some of the trends that are out there of what’s happening and what isn’t happening, and that kind of thing … people are getting a sense that, I guess, the humor content – to almost sound like a tobacco executive – that’s almost like the issue-delivery device, to get the funny correction gets people there, and then they start thinking about it, and they start seeing the trends that I’m seeing. So, I think that people perceive it as it makes an enjoyable read, but also something with the larger issue in play there.

J: Yeah. And there’s … you raise the issue of trends, and that, I mean, this is sort of a light take on what in some regards is a pretty serious issue. So, can you talk to me about trends that you’re seeing, and sort of what those trends mean, or what those trends tell us about what we’re seeing on a day-to-day basis in the newspaper, on television, that sort of thing?

C: Sure. There’s a lot of consistency in terms of the kind of errors that are being made on a regular basis. It’s the same ones that were being made when the first newspaper accuracy study was done in 1936 – misspelled names, incorrect titles, math and numbers done poorly, typos – these are very common errors; they haven’t changed. So, in that sense that’s become very clear to me, that the things that were bad then are still bad today. What is interesting in terms of a trend is that there is a lot of use of technology, particularly in the online world to sort of manage corrections and track corrections. Obviously, The New York Times recently unveiled its corrections tracking database, and there are those at other places around the country. It’s interesting to see things like Reuters using a blog to discuss some of the things it gets right, and of course, some of the things it gets very wrong. It’s nice to see a thing like the Chicago Tribune having an actual online forum for people to report an error, so they can capture the correct information, and people are encouraged to do it.

So, there is a trend now where we’re seeing people putting technology to use to help with errors, to help with accuracy, and to help with corrections. I think that’s a good thing. It’s got to be a piece of the solution. Training people also has to be a part of it. Improving some of the processes we use also have to be a part of it. One thing that I’ve always … that’s always driven me crazy is the fact that advanced newsrooms are using the default spellchecker that’s built into word-processing programs. There are better spell checkers out there, but for whatever reason, be it financial or just not seeing that the spellchecker causes as many errors as it can prevent. It hasn’t been looked at. Well, now I know that The New York Times is actually looking at replacing its spellchecker, so we’re starting to see technology play a role. I would like to see us have more of the training people be a part of that as well, because it’s dangerous to think that technology is the only way to fix the problem.

J: Right. Well, this sort of leads into a question that I had about the use of technology, and I can see sort of where technology can play a role in terms of tracking data. You were talking about fact, I’m sorry, spellchecking, but you also, I think you lay this out somewhere where you say it’s a matter of … error detection, correction, and prevention. How can it be used in that? How can technology be used in that prevention piece, because that seems to be sort of the age-old problem, that there are deadlines involved, that people get careless, that there are a lot of contingencies within a newsroom. So, can technology help? And I think you’ve already alluded to it in some ways, but how can technology bridge that prevention gap that exists now?

C: The prevention area is, unfortunately, where the least amount of innovation and technology is being applied. Obviously it’s a huge part of it – correcting errors and being faithful about that, being open and honest and about that is hugely important. Perfection is going to be an elusive goal, but you want to try to achieve it. On the prevention side, yeah, unfortunately, there’s not as much going on. The best example that I’ve seen is at The Star Telegram, a newspaper in Texas, where they’re using a plagiarism detection service to randomly check articles on a regular basis. They can’t afford to do it to every article because it would end up being quite expensive, and at a newspaper, they’re churning them out every day for the print edition, and a lot are online on a constant basis, but they do a random check. And the staff knows they’re doing a random check, and the staff rather than feel like, you know, they’re being watched or that they’re not trusted or something like that, the staff actually feels good, because they say, “Good, well, if somebody’s stealing, and somebody’s unethical we’re going to get rid of them. They’re not going to be a part of our paper.” They like that. So, that’s one piece of technology.

Plagiarism detection software should be used, if you can afford to, to check everything, and if you can’t afford that, do it randomly. This would be a small expense. People should do it. The second part is that that same newspaper, actually, one thing that they do – not necessarily with technology – but they do a random sort of post-publication fact check on pieces. They go back, they pick a random story, they pull it all apart, check everything in it. Again, the staff, rather than feeling like they’re being watched or not trusted is actually happy about it because it’s encouraging people to be more careful in their work. So, I think that it’s not necessarily a technology thing, but you could actually do fact-checking, preventative fact-checking at a newspaper, even with the deadline pressure that there is. And I think you do it the same way you could do plagiarism detection, which is, you do a random sampling. You pick, you know, a copy editor, takes 15 minutes at the end before all the articles go to the next stage, and they do a random check through one article. Maybe they check random facts on three or four articles, and you make sure that the staff knows about it, and then hopefully people will start rising to a higher standard.

J: And there was a shocking statistic you had in your article. I mean, it just, it killed me, and so I’m wondering if this is maybe where these numbers are gathered from. You mentioned that – I think you’re talking about The Philadelphia Inquirer – you say that there’s a 45.2 percent error rate, meaning that 45.2 percent of all the articles – almost 50 percent of the articles that you see in the newspaper have some kind of objective error factor, but the correction rate is only 2 percent, right? So, one, is this kind of spot-checking that you’re talking about, is this where those numbers come from? Is this where that percentage is coming from? And two, I guess, what’s … I mean, is there … I guess, are these the solutions to the problem? I would imagine that there’s a correction component in this that isn’t happening, as well?

C: That’s true. The statistics about an error rate, they come from – and this study started basically in 1936 – it was a professor in Minnesota, a journalism professor who decided, “Well, people are always talking about how inaccurate the press are, and the people in the press are always saying how accurate they are, so let’s figure out a way to see what the truth is.” He did a random sampling of news articles from three different newspapers. He found out who in the story was the primary source, the person who was interviewed, and he decided to send them the story, along with the questionnaire to fill out. So, was your name spelled correctly? Was your title correct? Were the numbers correct? Those were the hard, sort of factual questions. He combined that with the more subjective questions, things like: Was something taken out of context? Did you feel the story was sensationalized?

And what he found was that roughly half of all stories had some kind of error in terms of the source’s view. And that’s now called the accuracy check study. There have been well over ten of them done in the ensuing 70-plus years. And so, we have pretty consistent data. Different newspapers in different regions of different sizes all over the United States have been looked at. The largest study was published just a couple of years ago, and in fact, where [Charlie’s] study found about half of all stories had some type of error, this most recent study, which looked at the most number of newspapers, and also went to – I think it was thousands of sources – they found a 60 percent error rate. So, you could argue, maybe, we’re getting worse; basically all the studies that have been done fall between 40 and 60 percent. So, that’s where you get the data. This is going to the sources, going back to them saying, “Was this right? Was that right?” And then separating out the factual errors from the subjective errors, and it’s basically, yeah, about half of all articles. You pick up a newspaper, you read a news article; if you read two of them chances are there’s an error in at least one of them.

J: And this is not just … this could be a misspelling?

C: Yeah.

J: This could be a framing error? This could be an interpretive sort of … I mean, are they parsed in that way? Are the errors, or is it just any kind of error?

C: They do break down the different types. I mean, the main two categories are subjective and objectives ones, objective being a hard factual error like “Yes, their name is spelled incorrectly.” The subjective ones are interesting to note. First of all, people claim those more often than they do factual errors, but the factual error rate is still close to about 50 percent, typically, but the subjective ones are important, because when researchers ask people to rate the severity of a given mistake, for them [a subjective] one was seen as often more severe. The factual ones weren’t low on the scale, but the subjective ones were seen as quite high. So, it is important to look at those, sort of debatable issues. It’s important that we have discussions about them, and that’s a larger issue. But to, sort of, connect the dots now, to go from the error rate to a correct rate … we didn’t really know for a long time how many corrections there were compared to the factual errors.

I did sort of my own calculations, and I said, OK, looking at one newspaper, it looks like they’re correcting about 2 percent of the stories, and yet their error rate has been shown to be in that 40 to 60 percent range, and so clearly there’s uncorrected errors. But I didn’t know for sure, because I hadn’t been able to take a study and map the verified errors to the actual whether corrections appear or not. Scott Maier, a journalism professor at Oregon (Oregon University), he did that. He mapped the errors to the corrections, and what he found was that about 2 percent of all errors were corrected. So, I was shocked when he told me that. I was shocked when I read about that. I thought it would be a bit higher. So there’s a serious problem with uncorrected errors.

J: And is this … is it an issue that the errors aren’t being called to the papers’ attention, or is it … I mean, what is involved? Why aren’t these errors being addressed and corrected?

C: When the Jayson Blair scandal happened, one person decided to write a story by going back to the sources – people who were in some of the articles where he’d fabricated information or plagiarized from. And so they went back to them and they asked, you know, “Did you contact The Times? Did you ask for a correction?” And a lot of the times they didn’t, and so it was interesting to see their responses, and their responses are pretty consistent with what we’ve seen in terms of surveys that have been done. In some cases, frankly, they didn’t think the errors were that important, so sometimes people don’t see it as a big enough thing to do. They’re not really encouraged to do it, either, all that much by the paper.

The second thing is they think that even if they get a hold of somebody nobody is going to care – and this is obviously a very serious one. They think that newspapers, and media in general, don’t care about accuracy. They think that nobody will listen to them if they call, and they think it’s not worth the time and effort, and that probably nothing would happen. Some people have the opinion that corrections don’t actually do anything, that they don’t matter, and so they don’t bother asking for them, because they think no one’s going to see it, it doesn’t matter. And another category is that people don’t know how to do it. There’s usually, you know, an e-mail address or a phone number. Not always though. And people don’t necessarily know where to go to look for that. They don’t know where to find it. So there’s a barrier there that’s off a little bit, not only in terms of the perception of the newspapers not wanting them, and not caring, but people not knowing how to do it, and people not being encouraged to do it. So, those are the reasons why, part of the reason why so many go uncorrected.

But frankly, we’re not going back and looking through old stories to see, “OK, what did we get right?” We publish and move on, typically. That’s a habit of the press. Granted, it’s understandable, but we don’t really spend a lot of time looking at past stories. We don’t spend a lot of time doing postmortems, so we’re not going to turn them out. It’s basically been put on to the responsibility of the sources and public at large.

J: And so, I guess, what is the danger of this stuff? And I see now very clearly how your site fits into this scheme, that you are someone who in some sense is bringing visibility to these corrections that may otherwise be appended to an article that’s hidden away in the database or somewhere. But what is, more holistically speaking, what is the, what’s at risk if these things just linger out there? Is there a danger to this sort of uncorrected information just sitting out there? I mean, what do you think about that?

C: Obviously, I see it as a pretty severe thing. I’m spending a lot of time on it. But what I would argue is, in fact, errors today have greater consequences than ever before. And the reason for that, of course, is sort of the way information can travel so far so fast right now. We have incredible speed of information, which equals the speed of air. Something incorrect can get around the world in a matter of seconds, and the added part to this is that it becomes permanent, you know, search engines go out there and cache pages. They stay there forever. You have databases, where articles are put into, where people will be accessing them for years and years and years. And so it starts to take on a life of its own. It starts to sit in the database. It starts to sit on a Web site, and maybe somebody quotes it. It starts to spread. It starts to go farther.

So, whereas, one mistake might just stay restricted to one newspaper years ago, today it can spread. It can be cached; it can be archived. It’s going to go there forever, and if we’re talking about something in particular that involves a person, say, the article reported that they were accused of a crime, and the crime was incorrect, it was exaggerated – or it says that they were guilty, when in fact, they weren’t – this is something that the person is going to have out there about themselves forever. So, there’s a real responsibility. What we have … basically, the danger is you’re polluting the information stream, and that was sort of a description that was used by a prominent journalist in the U.S., John Carroll. He talked about errors as being the pollution of the journalism industry, and he said the way we clean it up is we correct things, and in particular he was talking about correcting these databases, and making sure that when a correction goes out, it goes everywhere that the story went, as well. And I think that’s actually one opportunity that we have is to try and find a way to push corrections out the way we push out stories.

There’s no reason why somebody shouldn’t be able to enter their e-mail address after reading a story, and have a correction automatically e-mailed into them. They’re not going to go back and read the story again. So, we should be pushing corrections out to people who read it. It just makes sense, as far as I’m concerned.

J: It’s an interesting idea. How much of this, too, involves self-policing? We talked to a journalist named Charles Madigan at the Chicago Tribune a while back, and he said that if he knows about an error in one of his stories, and does nothing about it, it’s a firing offense, that if he knows that there’s something wrong with one of his stories, and he doesn’t make a move. So, I would imagine then that there is some kind of thinking or ethic that’s instilled in journalists, that you need to be sort of self-policing. Do you see that happening as well? Or is that sort of fading away as journalism enters a new era?

C: The aspect of self-policing is absolutely sort of the norm. I could go to journalism school – I don’t [know whether] it’s done at other places – but the journalism school that I went to in Montreal, you lost a letter grade if you misspelled somebody’s name. I’ve heard at other places, you actually just fail outright that particular assignment. So, there is kind of this culture created a little bit in journalism schools, where every single student goes through the sort of media ethics class, or the press and ethics, or that kind of thing, and they have it hammered into them. If you ask any journalist what are the most important aspects of your job? Probably first or second thing is going to be something related to accuracy, so there’s a lot of talk about it. There is a lot of recognition that this is fundamental, this is important. In the book, The Elements of Journalism, they said that the journalist is first engaged in verification. It’s the first thing you do, you get some information, you have to verify it. So, there’s always a lot of talk about that. There’s always a lot of admission that, “Yes, this is important, this is fundamental. We have to do it.”

But it kind of just stays in that realm, and I think that’s what the issue is. There’s not a lot of action that goes beyond these words. And so what happens is, I think, when people hear us talk about it, but then they see the mistakes and don’t necessarily see the corrections, they start to think that it’s hollow; they start to think that there’s nothing behind it, it’s just an empty claim. And I think that’s where we started to see credibility go down. So, there is a self-policing thing. I mean, people aren’t … we don’t have an internal investigations unit, a paper is [not] constantly going after reporters. You’re supposed to check your own work at a newspaper, and you’re responsible for it.

J: And there’s an interesting idea that I think was written on the dust jacket and some other places here about how – I think this is the actual verbatim language here – how media mistakes pollute the press and imperil free speech. So, to take it up another level, how do these mistakes threaten this American, this Western institution of free speech?

C: Right. Well, obviously, there’s freedom of the press, is another freedom that’s, you know, a core element of a Western democracy, and it relates to freedom of speech because when you make a big error – when a newspaper gets something really, really wrong, and let’s say it’s about government or about a politician or something like that – what it does is it gives people ammunition to call upon courts to restrain the press. It gives them ammunition to restrict that freedom to publish, and which itself is a part of speech. So, what happens is, when you start getting things wrong, when people stop having faith in the press, then you open up the door to restrict the freedom of the press, and that’s a part of freedom of speech. So, I think there really is, at the far end, there’s that serious element, where it could gradually get worse and worse, and potentially we start to see controls that can chill freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

J: No one reads newspapers anymore anyway, right? [Laughter] So, I mean, is this something that we really need to be writing books about, and worried about? I mean, aren’t newspapers dying anyway?

C: Well, obviously, circulation of the printed product is going down, but The New York Times Web site is a hugely successful site, so we’re seeing sort of the slow death of a particular kind of medium, but there’s more news and more reporting than ever before. I mean, people are insatiable for this. It’s a core element of their lives; you know. Accurate information is something that we use to make every kind of decision in our life, and not necessarily coming from the press, but we need accurate information to make decisions about our financial well-being, about our mental health, our physical health, these kinds of things, and obviously the information that the press provides can contribute to a lot of those areas, and other ones, as well. Certainly we’ve seen a growth in things like celebrity journalism, and elements like that where maybe the information isn’t quite as important as other things, but there’s no decline in news.

There’s no decline in journalism. It’s changing, and, I think, exciting change is happening. But I guess what I’m trying to do is make sure that people don’t forget that, as you start changing how you’re reporting the news, and how you’re publishing it, that maybe you need to look at “Are there things to do in terms of verification and accuracy that also need to be changed, that also need to be involved?” I think as we see new technologies being used in the newsroom, and new ways of delivering the news, we should naturally see new ways of verifying the news. We’re staring to see a little bit of it, but I’d like to see a lot more.

J: In the forward to your book, Jeff Jarvis talks about journalists and hubris and he says it’s time to trade in our hubris and recapture our humanity and humility, to admit we make mistakes. So, this is a moral sort of point that he’s making, and I think this sort of ties into another – the last question that I asked you – but how do we do that? Is there a way, especially now that the news, the media is becoming more fragmented, more dispersed with less central control. Is there a way to get that ethical nugget out to people, [to] people on the fringes of journalism?

C: Yeah. I’m a huge believer, along with Jeff, that some of the arrogance that does exist in our profession … and we hate being called arrogant as journalists, you know, because we look around the newsroom, and we say “These are hard-working people. I’m a hard worker. We’re not arrogant.” But the truth is we come off as very arrogant a lot of the time, and the truth is you can build up a sense of arrogance. And I think that’s sort of – there’s no better way of expressing that than perhaps, you know, the way the letters to the editor used to work in a newspaper. OK, so there’s limited space. I understand that, but basically every day, it’s almost like you’re handing down the word of God to people, and it’s like “This is what you need to know, and just take it and use it, and then tomorrow we’re going to tell you everything again.”

But in the meantime, “Oh, if you wanted to share your thoughts, well maybe we’ll give you like 100 words on this page, and we’ll probably edit it so much that it’s not [an] original thing.” It was really a one-way relationship. It was: “Here’s the news for you, now shut up until we come and want to talk to you again.” It was on the media’s terms. Well today, people get to choose when they want their news, how they want it. And I think that they start to get upset with what they see is an arrogant attitude of, well, “We bring you the news.” It has to be from journalists, it couldn’t be from a blogger, and it’s almost like … it goes to the point where people in journalism are talking about saving journalism from the public.

Oh, there’s people in the public who want to be a part of it now, and that’s a dangerous thing. I can’t comprehend that. It’s strange to me, but that issue of humility is really, really important, and I think part of that … you can achieve that by allowing a little bit more openness, and allowing a bit more participation, acknowledging that readers have something important to say, and perhaps something important to contribute, as well. Acknowledge that it’s important for them to help correct mistakes, because you’re kind of in this together. So, I think if we can create more of a community sense, if we can allow a bit more participation from people, then we’ll seem less arrogant, we’ll seem less closed-off. And rather than being a one-way relationship, it’s something where there’s two people contributing, and when that happens, there’s trust, and when that happens people stick around and they show loyalty. So, I think there’s a financial aspect to this, as well.

J: Yeah. And I think you see newspapers tapping into that right now a little bit. In some senses, when I see stuff [on] the discussion pages [of] The New York Times, for instance, it’s spotty. Some of them are coherent and disciplined; people are chiming in with these great points. You almost believe, well, there’s got to be other writers writing about these things, you know? And then other ones are very sort of, either … there’s political venom in them, or there’s just sort of … you lose the nugget of what’s being argued, because it devolves into emotion and that sort of thing. How can this gush of input and this desire to participate be harnessed? And can it be harnessed?

C: It can be harnessed. It does take a lot of work to do that. When I was involved with a project run by Jay Rosen, who’s a professor a NYU – a project called New – we did sort of an experiment to see if professional journalists could work with citizen journalists (amateur journalists) to put together stories, to do reporting. There were some people who had no journalism background, who did great work. There were some people who weren’t very good. There were some people who joined, and we weren’t good enough at telling them what to do and how to do it, [and] they left. So we learned a lot of things with the project. I had a team of people doing fact-checking on the work, and these were people for the most part who had no journalism background. They did a good job, you know? So, there’s definitely the potential out there. I mean, it’s like we’re kind of selling the public short sometimes, I think. Obviously, some people are going to be good at it. Some people will write interesting things. Some people will be helpful and intelligent, and some people will not be. That’s just kind of the way it works, and to expect anything different would be strange, I think. One of the things that was clear in New Assignment was that to harness all of this expertise, all of this enthusiasm, you really need to give them a focus; you need to come up with ideas in specific ways for people to get involved.

For a lot of people, to post a comment is a very natural way, it’s a very obvious way. It’s really letting them get something off their chest. But if you actually want them to participate, you have to come up and design projects, and give them defined things where they can contribute. If somebody is a retired engineer, it would be great to have them look over some blueprints or something like that. So, it takes a lot of work on our part. You can’t just say to people, “Tell me about the sewage system in your neighborhood.” You have to be focused about it. You have to give them an opportunity to see what they can do. So I think there’s a lot of potential for it. There are a lot of people who see it as a very negative thing, and who think it’s hopeless to try to do this. And there’s some people who think it’s the biggest thing to happen in recent years, and I’m a little bit in between. I think there’s a lot of potential there. We’re trying to learn about it. We’re trying to do things to figure out the best ways, and I think we will over the next few years. I don’t think it’s going to change the world, but I think it could make it a better place.

J: And, I mean, are they working with what they learned on New Assignment? I mean, are they trying to sort of hone that model and roll out Version 2.0? I mean, are there plans to continue with that in another forum, maybe, or another form?

C: Yeah. There’s a new project in conjunction with having them post, where they’re doing sort of a political thing, so there are … there’s going to be successive things done. There are lots of other initiatives similar to that going on. Some of them that are just, you know, I guess amateur journalists, you could say, coming together where there’s no professional oversight, and it’s interesting to see how those communities evolve. So, New Assignment is one piece of it, and they’re sharing the knowledge that they gain and things like that, and that’s a wonderful thing. So, they’re going to keep working. There are others who are going to keep working. There are blogs out there that started, but now do fact-checking on the articles that they produce. They have surprisingly advanced systems for verification. And I think that there’s a possibility for them to learn something from the way journalism works now, and for the journalists to learn something about the way they do things. I think we should be open to learning, you know, rather than just using them, we should be open to learning from them. We should be open to giving them the proper credit that they deserve.

J: Yeah. You mention journalism school, and you were talking about this division between professional and amateur journalists. What is … how would you define that line, and is it a fuzzy boundary, or is it something you put your finger on?

C: I guess the simplest way that I would say it, you’re a professional journalist if you make your living doing journalism. To me it’s that simple. I don’t have a problem with somebody producing reporting. Anyone can do reporting. I think “journalist” is kind of the professional term. If that’s what you do for a living, yes, then you’re a journalist. But anybody can be a reporter. I know some people are very crazy about, “Oh, we have to keep things separate. We have to keep things separate.” I don’t see, you know, a watering down of the idea of a journalist happening. I just see it becoming a broader concept. I see pieces of what make up a journalist being able to be done by people, so one part of that is reporting. People can do reporting. They can do reporting about what’s happening on their street. That’s reporting. I mean, it’s a very logical thing; when you go to your family’s house, you report about what’s going on in your life. It’s a natural thing. It’s about sharing information and gathering information, so I think that that’s probably the vision. I’d say, if you do it for a living you’re a journalist, but it’s something … if you’re doing reporting, I don’t see why you can’t call yourself a reporter. I don’t have a problem with that, if you’re doing the actual work.

J: Is journalism school a piece of this, though, do you think? And are these new ideas and sort of new ethical principals and information about the evolution of the trade. I mean, it seems like it’s … it’s at a very nebulous stage right now. So, do journalism schools have some role to play in defining who is and who isn’t a journalist?

C: Personally, I don’t necessarily think so. I don’t think when you graduate journalism school you’re a journalist. I think you become a journalist when that’s what you do, you know? So, for me, the thing I see about journalism school is frankly, there are a ton of journalism schools in North America. We have a huge amount of students coming out of these things every year, and I was speaking once with the head of the largest media union in Canada, and he was upset at journalism schools, because [they’re] graduating them into an industry that doesn’t have any jobs for them, you know? And I think journalism schools are important, obviously; I mean I went to one. I don’t think it’s the only way you become a journalist. We don’t certify people as journalists, like a doctor, you know? This is something that anybody can get into, if they can find a path in, and friends of mine who didn’t go to journalism school are just as good, if not better as friends who did. So, I don’t see them as laying down the law of who is, and isn’t a journalist. I see them certainly providing a foundation for some people who choose to go that route.

I would like to see them do more about accuracy, rather than just, you know, bumping somebody down a letter grade. I’d like to see there be more training in journalism schools. This year there has been a rash of incidents of plagiarism at student newspapers. There’s – I’m not going to say that there’s a crisis or anything like that – but it’s a very disturbing thing to see it happen again and again and again. And I worked at a student newspaper; it was one of the best experiences I ever had, but I don’t think we would have been prepared to deal with somebody plagiarizing on staff, and we certainly wouldn’t have known how to prevent it from happening.

J: So, if it’s not journalism school, what is it that defines – I think you’ve already answered this, but just to make sure that we’re clear about it – what is the journalist of the second decade of the twenty-first century going to look like? Or what is the new definition of journalist now in the sort of state of affairs as it exists?

C: I don’t think we’ve seen sort of the core elements of the journalist change too much right now, but what we are seeing is a real morphing where a lot of technology is being brought in. I mean, there’s a newspaper in the U.K. that recently put up a job ad for a search editor, you know, a person who’s in charge of the way people are searching on the site, and the way the site interacts with search engines. We’re seeing, I think, a hybrid role being created where there’s a thing called computer-assisted reporting. It used to mean Excel spreadsheets, and maybe building a database with FileMaker Pro, or something like that. Today computer-assisted reporting means lots of different types of technology, maybe building an actual software program to help you manage data on a project. So, I think that one of the things that’s going to evolve is the mixture between technical expertise, sometimes actual programming, and the skills of a journalist.

I see that as a really good thing. We haven’t used technology to its fullest extent. I think we’re probably going to see a bit of a hybrid of perhaps the person who is a part of a community, and then they also sort of have a role as a bit of a journalist. I hope we start to see people in the community becoming part of the fabric of it. But there will be that core of staff who are professional editors and reporters. I just think that we will see some newer jobs with the technology mix, and we’ll see them hopefully have a larger network to draw upon within their community of people who can both be a reporter and a citizen, and a source.

J: That’s interesting, this mix of technology. Is there anyone out there that comes to mind right now that may be sort of … that you see as sort of the prototype of the future of journalism in that sort of mix of skill sets?

C: Right. I’m not sure that I’ve seen sort of that person yet, but there … I do know people who are working as journalists, but who also, you know, do programming. One of the smartest things I ever did was take an HTML course when I was in university. It helps me out to this day. And I would love to learn more languages, so I think we will see that person very soon. They’re probably already out there right now; I just haven’t met them.

J: It’s fascinating. I know that gets away from your book a little bit, but I’m just … I know that you can’t talk about journalism these days without talking about what the hell is going to happen? Will there be any jobs for us down the road?

C: Yeah, absolutely.

J: So, getting back to this idea … I’m going to have to stop in about three minutes to put in a new tape.

C: Sure.

J: But I don’t want to take much more than 15 minutes [with] this, because this is already … you’ve covered a ton of ground here. Now that we’re coming up on, into the election season full swing here, how are politics impacting our sense of journalistic truth? I mean, it seems like there’s a whole slew of ethics outlets out there that are aimed at, say, proving that liberal bias exists within the media. How do we need to factor in for politics on our sense of what’s true and what’s not true in journalism?

C: Politics have actually driven, I think, a lot of innovations out there. Like you’ve mentioned, they’ve really spurred the creation of media-honoring organizations. You have Media Matters for America on the left; you have Accuracy in Media on the right. You have a lot of other organizations out there, and so what’s interesting to me is how they’ve sort of created this culture of fact-checking because people are so passionate about politics. They don’t like seeing the other side winning. They want to create, sort of their own … almost their own media company to watch the media, so that’s been fascinating for me to see the rise of these groups.

Accuracy in Media is one of the oldest ones out there, and they operate kind of like their own little news organization. They’re out there tracking the information that’s being reported. They’re, in fact, checking it a little bit. Sometimes they’re sort of needling the people on the other side of the aisle who are doing the other kind of fact-checking, and so obviously with politics this is something people get very passionate about, and it’s interesting to see them manifest that passion in what is basically fact-checking, sometimes. I mean, this is what happened after that infamous 60 Minutes report about Bush’s National Guard record. As soon as that finished airing, people on message boards of places like Free and other places started talking: “Oh, you know, what about these documents?” And obviously they didn’t want to believe the story, but instead of just bashing maybe Dan Rather, instead of bashing liberals, what they decided to do was go about pulling their story apart piece by piece. And suddenly, there were retired engineers who knew about how typewriters worked at that time, and suddenly it coalesced into this massive network of fact-checkers, and at the same time on other sites, on the left side of the spectrum, they were trying to prove those people wrong.

So, it was a fascinating thing to see evolve. There’s a passion for proving people wrong when it comes to the political stuff, and I think we’re seeing that happen with these media groups and with this distributive fact-checking.

J: Can there be a case that’s made though that they’re starting sort of with a bias, and that they’re … I see it sort of through a scientific lens, that there’s the act of confirmation bias, in that you go and you dig for whatever information that it takes for you to make your political point. Actually, let me stop …

C: Yeah, sure.

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J: … because we’ve got one minute left on this tape.

[ Part II ]

J: So, the question we were asking then was about was political bias. So how … whether or not these political sites can engage in sort of confirmation bias, where they have an idea, a political idea in their head, and they set out to gather information to make their political point. Is that a danger embedded within that kind of fact-checking?

C: There’s absolutely a political means that they’re trying to achieve there. There’s something that they want to see happen, and there’s something that they believe. And yes, they’re going out and trying to prove this thing that they believe. So, I think that what you need to have sometimes is those people on the other side doing the same thing, because they’re being checked themselves now, and so if they’re going to put something forward and say, Well, look what we discovered,” now you know there’s going to be somebody on the other side saying “No, no, no, that’s wrong.” So, as long as they’re going after each other in this sense, I think you can sort of have the truth come to the top.

There’s no question you get a lot of partisan bickering. There’s no question there are people up there who just push fake information out. But there’s kind of a sort of self-correcting system that appears to be happening – not all the time – I mean, there are mistakes that happen but it seems to be evolving where within the community they’re checking on each other, and then the people who they’re kind of going against, they’re checking on them. As long as you have the checks on the checkers on the checkers on the checkers, usually you’re going to do OK. It’s interesting that there’s kind of more dynamics at play there, sometimes, than what we see in the mainstream media.

J: So, the next question is then is this some kind … this is itself some [type] of journalism that’s evolving and antagonistic but [collaborative]. Maybe without one coherent narrative, but it’s interesting, and you talk about them in your book, too, right? The rise of these external fact-checking organizations? Can you talk a little bit about sort of your process in writing the book. Was it difficult? How long did it take for you to put this together? Because, I mean, you cover a lot of ground here. You’re giving historical perspective, and then you’re also getting into sort into the technical aspects, and there’s a lot of statistics, and you have this section that I’m fascinated with, which is just standalone corrections. So, how did you conceive of this, and how long did it take you, and I mean, was it a difficult thing to do?

C: Initially, the idea for the book was to have kind of a short essay about corrections, and then just collect all the best ones from the site. It was supposed to be kind of quick and dirty, I guess you could say. But there was interest in that. There were people who wanted that, who were ready to buy that book, but it sort of started to evolve a little bit through discussions, I guess, a bit with my agents, that there is a larger message here. There is a larger opportunity. Nobody has ever written a book about this. And suddenly in talking with some publishers out there, we saw that there was an interest [in] a more investigative book, a more comprehensive book, and as a journalist I was happy to hear that, because for the other kind of book, I was more like an editor. For this one, I was going to be writing it.

And so once that started to happen, I began digging into the history of newspapers and the history of news, in general, began really diving into the academic research that’s out there, and so I would say I worked on the book for a good two years, but there was about six months of intensive writing and research. I traveled to New York to interview the head checker of Playboy, to interview the head fact-checker at Esquire, talked with lots of different people in lots of different areas. So, I suppose it was probably a typical thing where gathering from what I looked and hopefully found to be trusted sources, collecting the data, analyzing things, interviewing people, and putting it together, I found the historical stuff personally really fascinating. It was great to be able to go back and find early corrections, and find that the guy who published the first newspaper in the United States actually in his publisher’s perspective expressed a corrections policy. I mean, we’re talking about the late 17th century here, and so suddenly I could see that the things that people complain about today are the same things they were complaining about hundreds of years ago.

The way corrections are done today are not all that different from hundreds of years ago, and you start to see these things come together. In terms of – obviously we were very concerned about the accuracy of the book – so in one sense, there were two parts of it: there was the prevention aspect, which was using as trusted a source as I could find, having several editors look at it and edit it, and go through it, and pick it apart, and doing some fact-checking on the book, as well; and then from that prevention part, I still knew that, of course, there were going to be mistakes. There wasn’t so much done, though, that I could put this out and guarantee this book is 100 percent accurate. If I said that or didn’t say that it wasn’t, I think I’d be a liar. I think I’d be a hypocrite, and so what I decided to do was to put at the front of the book a statement of accuracy. It talks about the ways we confirmed information, any … the flaws that will be there, and I asked people – I’m probably the first author ever to actually ask people to put down my book when they start reading it – but I ask them to put it down and go to the corrections page that I have on the book’s Web site, so when they start reading the book they can go and get the corrections, they can have all the correct material in front of them. And that way they’re starting with a clean, accurate slate.

I also, of course, have a form in the back of the book that people can use to report a correction. I have the same form on the Web site. I’m asking people to help me make the book as accurate as it can possibly be. I’m asking them to give me their time and give me their effort, that if they spot something to let me know, and in return I’m offering them my thanks, and I’m offering them credit. So, on the Web site you can see who’s submitted a correction if they want to get credit by name. I do plan to give a prize if somebody manages to spot the most mistakes. So, far I think there’s one person who has two, so he’s in the lead, and the last thing that I’ve done in terms of the corrections and accuracy with the book is there’s an RSF feed for book’s corrections, so people don’t have to keep coming back to the site. It’s really important to try and push them out there. Not only that, people can enter their e-mail address and they will automatically be e-mailed any correction that comes up for the book as long as the book is out there, and as long as I have the Web site.

J: And to your mind are you the first author that’s done something like this?

C: As far as I know, I’m the first author who’s put a form in the book and asked people to report errors. As far as I know, I’m the first person who’s ever asked people to go to a corrections page before they read the book. People have put book corrections on their Web sites before, but I think I’m the first one to do an RSF feed and an e-mail function for getting them out there. So, I think there are a few innovations, and what I’m really hoping is that they become standard, so we’ll see.

J: Well, it’s self-effacing, too. I mean, it puts a reader at ease, in my mind. Here’s an opinion, but that this is a person that is interested in getting it right. And this comes … is an interesting point for me, which is sort of the definition of authority, versus the definition of credibility, and that newspapers seem to have operated on a long-time – our newspapers of record – on this idea that authority is, like you’re saying, it’s something that comes from here and is issued out.

C: Right.

J: Credibility … I mean, so have you wrestled with these two terms in some sense? Is there, does this sort of thing that you’re doing back here, the error report form, does this help you establish through credibility more authority in some sense?

C: You would think that it’s in conflict to think that by admitting that there are faults and flaws people will actually view you as being maybe more perfect. It seems like it’s contradictory, but that’s absolutely the way I see it, and frankly, it’s the way readers have been seeing it for a long time. I don’t think us in journalism have been listening. By being honest and up front that, “There are going to be mistakes, but here are all the ways I’m going to correct them, and I’m going to get the information to you. And by the way, I would love to have you help me out.” That’s inviting. That’s honest, and obviously it’s walking the talk that’s in the book. So, I do think that it helps build credibility.

For me there was no other option but to do things like that, just because of the subject of the book, but also because it just made sense to me, like, why should a reader have to come back to my Web site every day or every week to see if there are new corrections? It doesn’t make sense. It’s too much to ask of them. Why wouldn’t I be honest about the ways I went about verifying information? And why wouldn’t I ask them to help me make it more correct? To me these are sort of logical things. Obviously, I’m a bit different in the fact that I’ve spent so much time looking at this, but I think the difference between authority and credibility – it’s a beautiful way of putting it – for a long time we have been commanding people, “Here’s how you will get your news. Here’s when you will get your news, and here’s who the people are that are going to give it to you.” And we were losing credibility. For decades the level of trust in the press has been on the decline. People see the press as being interested in themselves, interested in making money. They see the press as being driven by the companies that own them, as being more corporate. People see the press with less credibility and they are in a lot of ways deciding to leave their newspaper subscription to go to other sources, and I think we do have to think more about credibility than just trying to extend our authority.

J: Some of these corrections in here I laugh at, and some of them made me just cringe, like the one you mention about Watergate, and the misattribution of where a key piece of information came from. I mean, what was the most shocking correction that you came across in your research? And what – can you just share with us some memorable corrections, and sort of what you think that those tell us about the history of the trade, or the direction of the trade?

C: Yeah. I think corrections, they say a lot, and they pack a punch for something that’s in a very small package. There have been a lot of memorable corrections. I mean, in terms of funny ones, I would encourage people to read the corrections page of The Guardian, a newspaper in England. It’s a little bit less funny now, and the reason is that the guy who was the readers’ editor …

[Dog barking]

J: Can I just stop you. We’re going to pick that up.

C: Yeah, sure.

J: Can you start over again with The Guardian?

C: Absolutely.

J: Sorry.

C: One newspaper that I would recommend people read, if they enjoy the art of correction, is The Guardian. For a long time, a gentleman by the name of Ian Mayes was there doing basically the ombudsman role, but he wrote the corrections. He edited the corrections, and he had a style to them. He had wit. He actually, by doing that – by showing that he put effort into these in terms of how they were presented, he actually made the corrections page a destination for people. Well, that’s not the norm. And I think that there’s nothing wrong with embracing the humor that’s there with trying to have a voice in corrections, because to me, it helps make them more appealing to people. It helps make them actual content than just these things that are sort of shoved on the bottom of the page, and hope nobody notices. One thing that Mayes did: one day no corrections ran in the paper, and the next day on the corrections page he said the lack of corrections yesterday was not due to any sudden onset of accuracy; it was a technical problem.


And that’s just classic. It’s a beautiful way of putting it. In one case a town’s name was spelled incorrectly, and he said that this town was spelled incorrectly; we often do that. And it was the same town that had been respelled again and again and again, and people kept noting it, and in three words he wrote – was spelled incorrectly yesterday; we often do that. With just a few words, he showed that obviously this is a problem at the paper, and he showed that they know it, and he showed that he’s acknowledging it. He also gave people a little bit of a laugh, and I think there’s nothing wrong with doing that, as long as you’re faithful about actually publishing corrections.

J: Are there corrections, though, that in one way or another are a type … a fatal flaw, I guess is what I’m thinking of – is a correction that can’t see the light of day? Did you ever in your research come across errors that publications were hell bent on not letting come to the surface, because it was dangerous in some way? Or is there a correction [that] – maybe if you didn’t come across one – hypothetically, could ruin a publication?

C: Certainly there are errors that can incredibly harm the reputation and potentially the balance sheet of a publication. I personally can’t think of a specific example whereby they were suppressing it, and suppressing it, and suppressing it because of the explosion that would happen if it got out there. But certainly there have been mistakes that hurt the overall credibility of a news organization. When I went through customs once on my way to the United States, I was asked by the agent, you know, “What’s your book about?” I told him I was going to do research, and I said, “Well, it’s about media mistakes and accuracy.” And he said, “Oh, 60 Minutes, Dan Rather.” That seared into people’s memory, that Bush National Guard story. So, you have to – once you start to realize that, then hopefully people would take it a little more seriously, but there are errors that are going to be linked to certain publications or outlets for all time.

Jayson Blair is always going to be linked to The New York Times. Stephen Glass is always going to be linked to The New Republic. 60 Minutes and that story are always going to be linked. And it becomes part of their reputation. They can’t shake that. They could win a ton of Pulitzers, but people are still going to at some point bring up those things that happened there. So, they last. They linger. They’re in people’s minds. They’re in databases. And so you have to take these things very seriously.

J: You’re Canadian.

C: No, I’m not.


J: I was going to ask you about Kids in the Hall, actually.


C: Nice.

J: Yeah. I was asking Laura that. She said she didn’t know. But did the public have a different perception about maybe when they pick up a newspaper are they more skeptical? I mean, is there a different perception about news in Canada? And I guess I ask that because I guess the stereotypes [of] the Canadian people that I know, more sort of outwardly humorous; I thought less serious in certain ways. I mean, do Canadians have more of a sense of humor about the news in certain ways that they don’t expect that everything they pick up and read in the newspaper is going to be a 100 percent true.

C: Usually, something having to do with Canadians … often you sort of define it in comparison to the U.S. I think the average Canadian thinks that. (It’s strange because Canadians are supposed to be known for being funny, right?) Well, Canadians kind of take pride in thinking that their news is more serious, and their journalists are more professional than the United States. They want to feel that way. Whether that’s actually the case, I think, is kind of debatable. We do have 24-hour cable news stations. They don’t look like the U.S. ones. They’re a bit different. There’s not, I guess, as much yelling or that kind of thing. But I think if you ask the average Canadian to compare their media to the U.S., they would probably say that it was a bit more serious. They would probably … they probably would think it was a little more accurate.

J: In something [on] the BBC … that the CBC, I mean, is there more emphasis on sort of international affairs, and sort of how – as opposed to this hyper-localism, this sense of how Canada fits into the international scheme, or …

C: Right. There is – you know, it’s become a pretty large universe in terms of the different kinds of news programs that are out there. Like I personally cannot watch the local suppertime news anywhere in Canada or anywhere in the world, really, in English-speaking stuff, because I find it’s absolutely unbearable. It’s just atrocious, OK? But we do have … CBC does pride itself on trying to do more international stories, on trying to be serious, on trying to tell the stories that matter. There are other stations that have a goofy weather guy, and do silly stories, or a fear monger about your kids are going to die from this toy, and so you see those things, and in fact, you see the roots of that kind of reporting for hundreds of years. It’s been going on this sort of sensationalized stuff; you know, the reporting about crime, sensationalizing that. So, I don’t see it as all that different from the U.S., really, when it comes down to it. Our journalists for the most part are kind of trained the same way. We have a lot of Canadians who go to the U.S. and work, and they’re usually not suddenly shocked by how things work. So, I don’t see a huge difference, but I think that Canadians like to pride themselves on thinking that there is one.

J: Interesting. The Walrus. That’s a great magazine.

C: Yeah. We do have some sort of small, independent magazines that are usually pretty high quality, but they don’t sell that many copies. They struggle just like some of the similar ones like on an Atlantic or a Harper’s would be in the United States. Yeah.

J: And I noticed – we’ll wrap this up really quick – I noticed that you write for a lot of big publications here. How has what you’ve learned in doing this book and through your Web site impacted the journalism that you’re doing for those publications, and in some ways you find yourself instructing editors or giving them pointers or about ways to approach a writer’s work? I mean, do you find yourself in a sort of advisory capacity at time?

C: It’s definitely had an impact on my … the work that I publish, primarily in newspapers, these days is where I’m writing. I hope for me it’s made me more careful, but I still make mistakes, and I’ve had my share of corrections. The first story I wrote for The New York Times had a correction to it, and what it did was it helped me learn, because I did have a checking procedure that I was using on myself, and I realized that there was a flaw in it, and so now I’ve improved that, because I got … I said that this person was based in New York. In fact, they were in California. I was on their Web site. I looked at their resume. “Oh, OK, they work for a company in Brooklyn.” So, I described the person as being in New York, but this is the age of telecommuting. And so the person is actually in California, and if I had looked in a different place on the Web site, I would have seen that she was in California. But even more than that, if I had taken a minute, written her a quick e-mail, or picked up the phone, I would have gotten the absolute correct information. There wouldn’t have been any doubt, and so for me, I kind of have a rule now where if I can confirm it within five or ten minutes, and even though I think I have the right thing, I do that, and just because it’s in one place on a Web site doesn’t mean that it’s telling you that’s what you think it is.

So, it’s helped me evolve my own procedures. I have had to ask an editor to run a correction for something. I do tend to actually kind of bite my tongue a little bit. For example, one newspaper I write for, I don’t really like the way they do corrections. I don’t like the way they write them, but I have called up my editor and told him that, because he doesn’t handle corrections, and he’d probably just say, “Yeah, whatever.” You know?


And there’s an element of caring about it, but just not caring enough to constantly want to look at it, and approve. So, I think maybe I should perhaps speak up a bit more, but I – first of all, I don’t want to be seen as a bore, and somebody who’s telling them they’re doing things wrong, but also I have to get the job done, as well.

J: Well, I mean, to just turn that a little bit, are you … do you think, perceived more as the writer that cares about getting it right, do you think? I mean, maybe they don’t come right out and say that, but do you think that this has helped in that regard?

C: I hope that there’s a perception that I’m going to be very careful in writing things. I haven’t had anybody say that absolutely. I tend to be pretty good with this stuff. I haven’t had any really big, bad errors, but every error is bad in its own way. For me, as a professional, I want to be seen as a very … a high quality professional. I want to be seen as somebody who’s conscientious and can get things done on time, and I think for me as freelance writer, if you were known as somebody who makes a lot of mistakes, you would probably find it very difficult to make a living, just like if you always got things in wrong – or in late – if you made a lot of mistakes, I think an editor at a certain point would start to look elsewhere, so it is a fundamental thing that you want people to think about you, and I would hope that having written about it, and been pretty good myself – not perfect – I hope that’s the perception, but I haven’t really asked.

J: And directions for the future? What are you hoping to do after this … other projects online, you know, other books, bigger stories that we can look for as you move on?

C: For this particular topic, I am hoping to build out the Web site more, and do sort of writing and recording for it, as well as cataloging the corrections. And a part of that, what I really want to do is … first of all is be able to go into newsrooms and give a presentation. I’m going to be at The Toronto Star, which is the largest circulation newspaper in Canada, giving a presentation there to people in the newsroom about accuracy, about the research, about a lot of things in the book. And my goal is to sort of try and inspire them to get excited about accuracy and to come up with some ideas, and to innovate and think about it every single day. So, I want to be able to go in to newsrooms and give more of those presentations.

I’m also looking to find a way to catalogue a definitive list of all the different things that different organizations have done to either prevent errors, or novel things they’re doing, and ways to correct them. Once I can collect those things, I ideally want to be able to put together some kind of a definitive document about “Here are the best ways that we know of right now to prevent errors, prevent plagiarism, prevent fabrication, and here are the best ways to go about correcting errors and getting corrections out to people.” So, I’m hoping to put something like that together.

It’s difficult because I do have another book that I’m finishing. I’m co-writing it with the guy who is known as Mafia Boy, who was a 15-year-old hacker in Montreal who took down CNN, a host of different sites – Amazon – working from his home PC, arrested by the [RC&P] and FBI. He’s now 22-years-old; he’s been quiet; hasn’t spoken to any press. So, I’m writing his story with him, and we’re looking at the state of online security right now, how things have gotten worse since what he did, and that will be out in fall 2008, but there’s probably going to be at least one more book in the series like this. I haven’t finalized it yet, but I think within the next two years it will probably be out.

J: Cool. And, I mean, this is your be – I mean, this is your thing, so we can expect a lot more on – a lot more in store.

C: I can’t see myself abandoning this just because these corrections are there every day. The errors are there every day, and there’s still a lot more to be done about fixing them, so yeah, I don’t think I could stop at this point if I wanted to, because then I guess nobody would really be doing it, and I’d be unhappy about that.

J: Well, let us know about The Toronto Star meeting. Is this your first big one with the [new thing]?

C: Yeah. It’s the first one I’ve done, and so I’m going to get feedback about, you know, what they want more of, less of, that kind of thing, and then hopefully, yeah … it’s, hopefully, it’s you know, I can do like an Al Gore impersonation and make it my PowerPoint that, you know, hopefully wakes people up to something. We’ll see.

J: If you can link it to global warming, then you’ve got something!


C: I do need … yeah; I really need to sex up the issue a little bit. If I could link it to global warming, you’re right, maybe more people would listen.

J: Terrorism, global warming, something like that.

C: Yeah.


J: Look for that connection.

C: That will be the subtitle of the next book: How Errors Cause Terrorism.

J: Yeah.


C: There you go.

J: All right, Craig, thank you very much.

C: Thanks, that was great.

J: I appreciate it.

C: Yeah, my pleasure, man.


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DO THE MEDIA REGRET THE ERRORS? Interview with Craig Silverman

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2 Responses

  1. robert says:

    another test comment

  2. Dan K says:

    We can also ask: "Does the headline writer want to admit his mistake?"

    Media is a plural noun. Should the hede be "Do the media regret the errors?" Just a thought from an anal-retentive freelancer and j-prof.

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