Getting It Right

<B>Steve Hartman</B> On The Corrections Page

I don't want to say which newspaper did this (The New York Times), but a major daily made a major blunder last week when it misidentified a man – Pete Coors -- in a photo.

It was Pete Coors, a Republican senatorial candidate from Colorado, not, as the story suggested, a murderer and reputed member of the Ku Klux Klan.

I read about this error in what has become my favorite part of every paper: the corrections page, that humble corner where journalists go to write their wrongs. And sometimes save lives.

In February, a British hiking magazine had to correct an article about climbing Scotland's tallest mountain. The article had a set of directions -- a special way to get down the mountain – that supposedly was the safest way to get down the mountain. Unfortunately, the magazine left out one very important turn. So anyone who actually followed their directions would walk off a very large cliff.

Safest way down? No. Fastest? Yes.

Here's another potential lifesaver from this month's Southern Living. The problem here was a recipe for rolls. I took their recipe to New York's Institute of Culinary Education to see what would happen if we followed the original instructions: ½ a cup of Crisco, 1 cup of water, boil 5 minutes.

The result? Obviously, at this point, dinner would be the least of your concerns.

Of course, that's an extreme example. Most corrections have little, if any effect, on your homeowners' insurance. In fact, some seem hardly worth bothering.

One correction says: "…a Horoscope left out of Saturday's State Journal-Register is being rerun on page 41 today." What's the point now? I know what happened on Saturday.

Here's another from The Wall Street Journal. Apparently they wrote Canada had 11 provinces when it really has 10. Hey, it's Canada – as long as you're within 2-3 provinces, that's close enough.

Finally, here's one about me. Not long ago, I went to Buckhannon, W.Va., to do a piece for CBS' The Early Show.

Here's how the local paper reported it: "NBC's Today Show film crew to visit Buckhannon soon." I never asked for a correction though, mostly because I feel I'm in no position to throw stones.

Perhaps you've noticed, in broadcast news we hardly correct anything. I'd like to tell you it's because we don't make nearly the mistakes – but that would require a correction.