Friday, December 21, 2007

We Regret the Era

A lot of people take a week off around this time of year, but not journalists.

Instead, we just recycle a lot of old material so we can go home early.

That's why you see so many “year in review” specials.

Personally, I've always enjoyed looking back at (what every news anchor in the world is required to refer to as) “the news that was.”

But 2007 brought us saturation coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, the NASA love triangle, Virginia Tech, lead-laced toys, steroids, and scads of other things that were not particularly pleasant or funny.

So instead, I'm going to rely on the second-most popular way people in the news biz manage to not work too hard during the Holidays: use other people's stuff.

I found a website called “Regret The Error” ( that reports and archives newspaper corrections. Recently the site gave out its awards for the media mistakes that stood out most in 2007.

Topping the list: Coverage of the Kirsk disaster.

The Kirsk, you may remember, is the Arctic-bound Russian submarine that exploded and ran aground and sank and lost its tax-exempt status back in August.

(All hands were lost, which one would think would be the least of the crew's problems in that situation. Losing their hands, I mean.)

Anyway, Russian state-owned TV apparently didn't have an actual picture of a submarine, much less the Kirsk. So they filched one from the 1997 blockbuster movie Titanic.

Before long, thanks to the Reuters news wire, the fake submarine was splayed all over American network TV, masquerading as the Kirsk.

Paramount Pictures might have had a beef with this, except – this is true – nobody noticed. Eventually, a 13-year-old boy in Finland, who is apparently an extreme nautical geek, alerted the proper authorities, whoever they may be.

(What scares me is that this probably isn't the only time a news agency used a fake image because it was too lazy to go get the real one. That must be why I could swear I've seen Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a Star Wars movie one time.)

British tabloids are also a reliable source of misinformation. Often, their corrections are more entertaining than the original story:

“Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published on 21 April in the Independent Saturday magazine, Ms Blair’s representatives have told us that she was friendly with but never had a relationship with Carole Caplin of the type suggested in the article.

“They want to make it clear, which we are happy to do, that Ms Blair has never shared a shower with Ms Caplin, was not introduced to spirit guides or primal wrestling by Ms Caplin (or anyone else), and did not have her diary masterminded by Ms Caplin.”

Closer to home, The Portland Press Herald tried to contribute to the health and well-being of the public: “A story on Page B4 on Wednesday about foraging for edible mushrooms contained a photo of amanita muscaria, which is a poisonous and hallucinogenic mushroom. It was a copy editor’s error.”

Hey, everyone makes mistakes. It's not like they got taken in by that fake report that Paris Hilton had become an advocate for drunk elephants, like the Associated Press did.

Well, that's it for this year. Here's hoping our 2008 is much less regrettable.

1 comment:

Mr Chandl3r said...

WOW, Mr.C you reminded me of the writer of The Lies and the lying lyiers who teel them. But i agree with you that NASA love triangle. You have opened my little mind to what really happens in th eworld and this artical show just that.