10 Best Corrections and Errors of 2012

iMediaEthics publishes international media ethics news stories and investigations into journalism ethics lapses.


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10) New York Times corrects the number of people on Xanax

A January correction from the New York Times grabbed our attention for its dramatic statistic reporting that a huge chunk of Americans take Xanax. The Times had originally reported that 46 million people in the United States were prescribed Xanax, but as the correction explained the real statistic is that the drug was “prescribed 46.3 million times in the United States in 2010.”  [Xanax correction]


9) Obama NOT ‘allegedly’ born in Hawaii

A copy editor at Montana’s Helena Independent Record added the word “allegedly” to a story mentioning that U.S. president Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.  After the change and letters complaining about the word, the newspaper published an “Editor’s Note” that called the addition a “poor attempt at humor and a poor decision.” [Obama Hawaii error]


8) Zooey Deschanel/ Death Cab for Cutie

Someone at Yahoo News is not a Death Cab for Cutie fan.  In a report on actress Zooey Deschanel’s divorce from Ben Gibbard, the front man for the popular alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie, Yahoo News suggested that Deschanel left a man named Death Cab so she could be with Cutie’s Ben Gibbard.  Clearly, Yahoo News didn’t realize the “for” in Death Cab for Cutie is part of the band’s name and that Deschanel couldn’t divorce Death Cab to be with Cutie.

Anyway, Yahoo News didn’t post a correction on the story but it did scrub the error.   [Zooey Deschanel/Death Cab for Cutie error]


7) Google News errors: Stephen Harper & Prostitution Scandal? Angelina Jolie & Terrorism Charges?

Twice this year iMediaEthics spotted errors on Google News where news stories were paired with unrelated photos.

In April, a picture of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared next to reports of the U.S. Secret Service prostitution scandal. Google News didn’t explain to iMediaEthics how the error occurred, but Stephen Lecce from Harper’s office said  “we don’t like errors like this.”

The next month, on two different days, a photo of American actress Angelina Jolie accompanied reports on terrorism charges against three people for a Bosnian attack.

[Stephen Harper & Prostitution Scandal Error, Angelina Jolie & Bosnian Terrorism Charges Error]

6)  New York Post Photo Caption calls supporters protesters

Protesters, supporters, same thing? The New York Post’s March 25 print version of a photo described a group of people carrying signs in favor of the New York Police Department as “protesters.”

Details, details.  Related, as listed in iMediaEthics’ Top 10 Photo Fails of 2012, Getty Images mis-identified a student journalist as a protester in an Occupy Wall Street photo caption.

[NY Post Photo Caption Error]


5) Billionaire buys Romney? error

Did a billionaire and potential mayoral candidate suggest he could buy Mitt Romney two months before the 2012 presidential election?

Nope, but a CNN typo surely made it seem so.

Grocery store CEO John Catsimatidis was quoted by CNN in an article about Romney’s then-presidential campaign as saying Romney was a “level headed buy.”  Catsimatidis, however, told iMediaEthics he would “never talk in that context.”

Unfortunately, while CNN quickly changed the text to read “level headed guy” after iMediaEthics asked for a correction, no correction note was posted on the article and CNN didn’t respond to our questions asking how CNN knew it was just a typo.

[CNN Says Billionaire Calls Mitt Romney a ‘Buy’ Error]

4) ‘Astronaut Neil Young’?

Astronaut Neil Armstrong died in August, but NBC News scared rock fans and confused history buffs “briefly” when a headline wrongly reported “Astronaut Neil Young, first man to walk on moon, dies at age 82.”

[Astronaut Neil Young error]

3) Neil Armstrong, the bicyclist?

But, NBC’s error wasn’t the only time Neil Armstrong ended up in a mix-up this year.  Two months later, the Los Angeles Times switched Lance Armstrong with Neil Armstrong in a story on Nike ending its contract with cyclist Lance Armstrong.

In that case, the Los Angeles Times headline read, “After Nike drops Neil Armstrong: Other athletes who’ve been cut,”  which was doubly confusing given Neil Armstrong’s October death.

[Neil Armstrong versus Lance Armstrong error]

2) Julian Assange and ‘Charges’

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still hiding out in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid being extradition related to allegations of sexual assault.

But, Assange has not been charged with sexual assault, a fact many media outlets missed with imprecise wording.  After hearing from Assange and later his team at WikiLeaks, iMediaEthics examined a handful of corrections from the McClatchy Co. fixing inaccurate reporting saying Assange had been charged.

What we found were inconsistencies:  While McClatchy published eight corrections on articles by the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observer and the Sacramento Bee at Assange’s request, those four news outlets knew nothing about the corrections and were surprised to learn McClatchy was correcting their content without tipping them off.

The Herald, the Observer, and the Bee — all owned by McClatchy — quickly responded to iMediaEthics to let us know they’d post their own corrections on their site.  But the Los Angeles Times London Bureau chief Henry Chu indicated that errors in two of its three articles McClatchy corrected were made by McClatchy in editing; for the third article, Chu told us he’d ask for a correction. (McClatchy initially admitted to editing stories by other outlets, but later denied Chu’s statement that McClatchy edited the story.)

Oddly, after that report and our back-and-forth with the Los Angeles Times over the allegations versus charges issue, the Los Angeles Times repeated its error in saying there were “charges” against Assange.

[McClatchy Corrects Articles on Assange, Los Angeles Times Repeats Error]

1) Oops! Sorry we said you’re dead

A few times this year media outlets including the BBC had to apologize and correct after wrongly reporting someone died.

In August, the BBC apologized for reporting that Olympic boxer Luke Campbell’s family died. The BBC told us it “made an on air correction” for airing the “incorrect information” and Yahoo News reported the BBC was likely mixed up Campbell’s family with someone named Freddie Evans.

Then, the Toronto Star apologized after an Aug. 31 article wrongly reported someone named Errol Richards “was stabbed to death” when “in fact, Richards survived.” In its correction, posted on the article and on a separate corrections page, the Star said it “regrets the error.”

And in late November, the Daily Mail explained that Parliament member Fiona Bruce’s father wasn’t actually dead like the Mail had reported previously.

Oddly, while the Mail scrubbed the error from the online article and posted a correction in its online correction column, the actual article itself carried no corrections, updates or disclosure of the error the Mail wiped away.  When iMediaEthics asked the Mail why it didn’t post a correction notice for readers on the article in question, we were told that it “was not a significant inaccuracy but a simple misunderstanding” and that any “notice to the online article seems pointless, possibly confusing to the reader and unnecessary.”
[BBC Apologizes for Saying Olympic Athlete’s Family Died, Toronto Star: Sorry we said you were stabbed to death, The Daily Mail: Your Father isn’t Deadbut it’s not a ‘significant inaccuracy.’]

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10 Best Corrections and Errors of 2012

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