< Regret the Error 2011

Transcript

Friday, December 30, 2011

BOB GARFIELD:

Later in this show you'll hear a story I did from South Africa where I described taking a trip to a town about an hour west of Cape Town. However, what I meant to say was "an hour north of Cape Town." An hour west of Cape Town would have put me in the Atlantic Ocean. We regret the error.

Every year about this time we invite Poynter's Craig Silverman of Regret the Error to try to make our mistakes seem paltry by comparison. Craig, welcome back to On the Media.

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

Thank you. And, and that is a, a rather paltry but nice to hear corrected mistake.

BOB GARFIELD:

This year's list begins with a mistake that we saw a lot, and it had to do with the death of Osama bin Laden.

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

Yes, and I noticed that you slowed down when you started to say his name because that was sort of the root of the error. They would end up saying "Obama bin Laden" or, you know, "Obama has been killed."

And it was on TV, it was on the radio, it was online, it was in newspapers. And it was really kind of relentless.

ALINA CHO CLIP:

Senator Barack Obama's campaign has been dogged with false rumors, among them that Osama is a Muslim – Obama, rather.

MALE CORRESPONDENT CLIP:

They prefer to think of a guy named Osama bin Lad – no, Osama. There I made the mistake – Barack Obama…

MALE CORRESPONDENT CLIP:

And the report says that, that Obama – uh, I'm sorry, excuse me, Osama bin Laden…

MALE CORRESPONDENT CLIP:

I think Osam – um, unfortunate name, Obama..

DAN RATHER CLIP:

Well, I have a great respect for Jesse Jackson, that he was an important figure in paving the way for an Osama bin Laden to appear.

BOB GARFIELD:

And the black comedy of errors continued in the newspapers with the [LAUGHS] publication of images alleged to be the corpse of Osama bin Laden, but:

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

But they were, of course, Photoshopped. There has been no photo released, and yet, in particular a bunch of tabloids in England went with this very clearly [LAUGHS] Photoshopped image of Osama bin Laden, and it was supposedly him dead. It was not. And it ended up really resulting in some pretty notable errors, as well.

BOB GARFIELD:

NPR was not immune to your list in a very somber story, the shooting in Arizona that led to the reported death of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. What happened?

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

There was a lot of confusion at the scene. She wasn't the only person who was shot. There were a lot of people who were shot. There was a lot of misinformation that comes out naturally whenever there's chaos. And so, NPR heard from a source who was related to a congressional office and they heard from a source who was related to the local sheriff's office in Arizona. Both these people said, well, she's dead. And it turned out later that, in fact, they were just sort of reporting what they had heard, and neither of them had actual confirmation. And so, NPR ended up going with that. It was put on their website, it started to be broadcast.

And then eventually it was also tweeted from the main NPR account. All those things together really started spreading the news, and pretty soon you had other news outlets like CNN and Reuters and others that were also reporting that she had been killed.

BOB GARFIELD:

You have a lot of different categories in your annual compendium. One of them is the best, not correction of the year but clarification, which is a slightly [LAUGHS] different beast. This one's from India's Early Times newspaper, itself apparently a victim of some sort of ongoing online hoax.

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

It was a strange one. And it was kind of lovely in some ways, as well, in particular for the use of language. They said that they're informing our esteemed readers that certain unscrupulous elements out of sheer frustration and jealousy have created a fake email ID, and that ID is being used to send fake mails containing news reports published in Early Times.

The clarification goes on to note that the sender seemingly copies news reports from the website, adds certain derogatory remarks and then sends it to media organizations. But my favorite part of the clarification comes at the end. It is clarified that the urchin in doing this has no association with Early Times

[BOB LAUGHS]

An apparent aim of this insane behavior is to create a wedge and animosity between Early Times and two other prominent media outlets. I think the use of urchin as an insult on its own wins the prize.

BOB GARFIELD:

[LAUGHS]  We're going to play you a little tape here for your plagiarism episode of the year. You know, sometimes these plagiarism things are a bit murky. You know, did – did they really plagiarize? Or did they get the same idea? Or maybe did they just borrow a, a phrase here and there and forget to attribute it? Not this story.

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

Folks at ABC News really kind of couldn't believe their ears and their eyes. What happened is that the folks at that station in  New Zealand basically took the script for the ABC piece, they substituted in a New Zealand family, a New Zealand reporter, a New Zealand host to basically repeat the same lines [LAUGHS] that ABC News had done.

KIWI HOST:

Figure out what in your own home is actually made in New Zealand?

DIANE SAWYER:

What do you own that is actually made in the U.S.?

KIWI HOST:

Helping to preserve Kiwi jobs.

DIANE SAWYER:

Preserving American jobs.

KIWI HOST:

Tonight one Kiwi faces the truth about foreign goods.

DIANE SAWYER:

And tonight, one family's faces the truth about foreign goods.

U.S. REPORTER:

We searched all over the country for one very brave and willing American family.

KIWI REPORTER:

We searched all over the country for one very courageous and willing Kiwi family.

U.S. REPORTER:

Like so many other families who told our producers their house must be filled with plenty that's made in America.

KIWI REPORTER:

They were like so many other families who told our producers they own lots that's made in New Zealand.

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

I mean, it's the most brazen case of a plagiarism I've ever seen involving TV. They did basically a remake. You could call it an homage, except [LAUGHS] they didn't have permission to do it.

BOB GARFIELD:

Finally [LAUGHS], a correction and an apology for a misattribution. This concerned [LAUGHS] the pop artist Toni Braxton.

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

So here's the correction that was published by The New York Post. The Post incorrectly attributed a quote to Toni Braxton in an article published on March 25th. Braxton did not say, quote, "I have a big ass house, three cars and I fly first class all around the world.

[BOB LAUGHING]

Some say I have the perfect life."

BOB GARFIELD:

Let's just say Toni Braxton never said that. [LAUGHS]  Who did?

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

That, that is the eternal question for this year, I suppose. Who did say they have a big ass house and three cars and fly first class-

[BOB LAUGHING]

- all around the world? Maybe it was something at The New York Post.

BOB GARFIELD:

[LAUGHING] Maybe. Craig, once again, thank you very much.

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

Thank you.

BOB GARFIELD:

Craig Silverman is the author of Regret the Error blog at Poynter.org. Craig, if we're having this conversation, I guess that means Happy New Year.

CRAIG SILVERMAN:

Same to you.

BOB GARFIELD:

Thank you.