The Washington Post published a Dec. 18 article about errors in Virginia textbooks. Since the article’s publication, though, the Post has acknowledged making two errors in its story on errors.
The Dec. 18 article in question reports that publisher Five Ponds Press “is refusing to submit its scholarship to the state Department of Education for review” and “is now planning to..market directly to local school systems without seeking Richmond’s stamp of approval.”
Concerning the first error, which incorrectly said the Virginia legislature “raised standards for textbooks to win state approval,” was corrected both in the Dec. 20 print edition of the Post and online, according to education editor Nick Anderson. Anderson explained that “as soon as” the article was published, the Post “heard from Virginia education officials that we had made a reporting error.”
The first correction reads:
“An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Virginia lawmakers raised standards for textbooks to win state approval. New regulations to toughen textbook oversight were actually approved in March by the Virginia Board of Education, not the legislature. This version has been updated to reflect the correction.”
A Post reader, Glenn Merritt, spotted the second error and solicited the newspaper for a correction. Merritt first e-mailed the Post’s corrections department, copying the Metro desk, the ombudsman and the Post’s Kevin Sieff, on Dec. 26, noting that there was an error with the date given to a sponsored piece of legislation.
While the Post said Virginia state delegate David Englin “sponsored legislation in January last year” (meaning 2010), Englin sponsored that legislation in January of 2011.
Merritt noted the “error is fairly minor” in his e-mail to iMediaEthics. That said, he commented in his January e-mail to iMediaEthics that “it’s quite amusing that an article that seeks to raise the issue of errors in textbooks produces two factual errors (one acknowledged to date) in 16 short paragraphs.”
According to an e-mail provided by Merritt to iMediaEthics, Washington Post education editor Nick Anderson responded Feb. 1 to Merritt’s Feb. 1 follow-up e-mail seeking a correction, thanking Merritt and noting the Post would correct the error.
On Feb. 7, the correction on top of the Post’s article was updated to add the following correction:
“The article also misstated the date of an earlier legislative effort to toughen that process; Del. David L. Englin sponsored the bill in 2011. This version has been updated.”
The Post’s Nick Anderson told us that the correction was also published in the Feb. 7 print edition. Anderson confirmed that Merritt “indeed brought this second error to our attention in late December through a corections dropbox. But unfortunately, we overlooked that note” until Merritt’s follow-up request in February.
We have written a few times before about some of Merritt’s requests for corrections to Post reports, including the uncorrected errors in the newspaper’s 2011 obituary for Elizabeth Edwards and the Post’s coverage of a textbook bias issue.