Anatomy of a Correction Correction of Anatomy

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UPDATED 12/3/07

If StinkyJournalism staffers are the self-knighted superheroes of fact-checking, then Google Alerts are our trusty sidekicks.  When founder Rhonda Roland Shearer received a suspicious news alert about an article from Toledo’s WTVG (“Pit bull chews off boys leg, mother sentenced”), she immediately smelled that something wasn’t right.  A thought bubble appeared over her head, reading, “A pit bull chewed off a leg?”

She also noticed a strange line in the last paragraph of the story which read “Investigators believe they may never know what really happened.” It seems WTVG had capitalized on the furor – and web traffic – pit bull stories generate, while ignoring a gaping hole in their own reporting.

Instantly, she dispatched pitbull- coverage guru Adam Klasfeld to investigate.  Interestingly, the article below the headline had the correct information: The dog chewed off the boy’s foot, and not the whole leg.  A Laurel-and-Hardy-worthy transcript of Klasfeld’s conversation with the editors of WTVG documents how a correction came to be made.

(Shearer is still looking into the assertion that investigators are unsure about the circumstances of the attack.)

STINKYJOURNALISM:  I’m calling from Art Science Research Lab.  My name is Adam Klasfeld.  How are you doing?


STINKYJOURNALISM:   I saw a headline on your website, “Pit bull chews off boy’s leg, mother sentenced.”

WTVG:  Correct.  Well, bit his foot off.

STINKYJOURNALISM:  Oh, it’s been corrected?

WTVG:  No.  The pit bull chewed the boy’s—


WTVG:  Foot.


WTVG:  Just the foot.

STINKYJOURNALISM:  That’s what I was calling about.  Has that been corrected?

WTVG:   Has it been corrected?  You mean…

STINKYJOURNALISM:  The title of the article is, “Pit bull chews off boy’s leg, mother sentenced,” and in the article itself it says that it was the 4-year-old’s foot.  I can give you the web address if you’d like.

WTVG:  Hold on a second.  I’m pulling it up right now.  “Pit bull chews off…”  Oh, you’re right!  “…boy’s leg, mother sentenced.”  It should be just his foot.


WTVG:  I’ll have them correct that.

STINKYJOURNALISM:   Do you know who wrote the headline and the article?

WTVG:  No I don’t.

STINKYJOURNALISM:   There’s no way of finding that out?

WTVG:  Hold on one second.

(WTVG transfers STINKYJOURNALISM to two offices, and eventually a voice mail.   STINKYJOURNALISM’s message is not returned.  WTVG corrects the title without notice or explanation.)


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Anatomy of a Correction / Correction of Anatomy: Pitbull Didn’t Chew Off Leg

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