Tag Archives: media errors


It was really hot today, but that’s nothing compared to the forecast for next week, apparently:

CBC's Kenny Bodanis realizes he's made a typo in his weather forecast

One thing about putting your newscasts online is that the errors of live TV remain accessible long after they’ve aired. This is Kenny Bodanis (sitting, err, standing in for Frank Cavallaro), who accidentally added an extra digit to next Tuesday’s high during Tuesday’s weather segment on CBMT (fun starts about the 15-minute mark). He assures us it won’t actually be 234 degrees next Tuesday, though it might feel like it.

Then again, I have it on pretty good authority that the weather people just pull numbers out of nowhere for forecasts six and seven days ahead, so he could very well be right!

(via Alex Leduc on Facebook)

You feel shame, you know

An error above the fold on Page 1

There are some things I’d been told keep copy editors up at night. Did I make sure all the page numbers matched up? Did I make sure all the stories that were supposed to get in the paper got in? Did I make sure to spell everything correctly? Did I make sure to add online and other external pointers where needed?

When that copy editor’s job is doing Page A1, those fears are heightened.

I’d heard from fellow (young) editors about the anxiety they would feel after the end of their shifts, how they would go home and just assume they got something horribly wrong but didn’t know what it was.

That never really happened to me. Not because I didn’t think I’d ever get anything wrong (though I like to think of myself as pretty good at my job) but because there isn’t much I can do about it.

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Why Hamelin?

There was another one of those embarrassing media-gets-it-wrong stories today, about who was going to carry the flag into the closing ceremonies Sunday evening.

The report apparently came out of Canadian Press, which reported that after meeting Saturday night, officials from the Canadian Olympic Committee had selected double-gold-medallist Charles Hamelin to be Canada’s flag-bearer. CP said it got confirmation from “two federal government sources” as well as Hamelin himself, but not from the COC.

Websites that carry Canadian Press content posted the story. Other news sources, like Agence QMI, Cyberpresse, Canwest News Service and Rue Frontenac, rewrote CP’s story, some being more careful than others about its unofficial nature.

The COC quickly denied the report, and later announced that in fact it would be Joannie Rochette who would carry the flag into the closing ceremony.

Assuming what CP reported was true – that Hamelin was told he’d be carrying the flag, that he was getting congratulations already from fellow athletes, and that people in the government also had reliable information confirming the selection – then the erroneous report is reasonable and forgiveable. To its credit, CP left room throughout the process for the possibility that it might be wrong.

I haven’t found a story yet asking the obvious question: Why did Hamelin think he would be the flag-bearer? Was he asked about it and incorrectly assumed that meant he’d been selected? Did the COC intentionally mislead him to throw the media off the trail? Did someone just assume that Hamelin would be selected because he was the double-gold-medallist?

I’m hopeful that someone will be able to ask Hamelin that question, and that the various media won’t shy away from it because it draws attention to the fact that they got the story wrong.

(UPDATE: This story has this paragraph: “A short-track team spokesman said later that the team was either sick of being asked about the flag-bearer job or had simply started to believe rumours that had been circulating.” – Not really an explanation. Meanwhile, conspiracy theories are spreading.)

Like with the Gordon Lightfoot story, my issue isn’t so much with the media getting the story wrong as their attempts to cover it up once they’re corrected.

Even as I write this, hours after the official announcement, many sources still have the wrong story, including Yahoo! NewsLCN, the Vancouver Province and CTV Montreal. Other stories were simply deleted, while most were quietly replaced with the announcement. Few mentioned getting the story wrong previously, some making vague references to rumours in unnamed media.

No apologies, no analysis of how they got the story wrong. And the credibility of the news media takes another hit as a result.

Media, correct thyself

Apparently, the CBC News Network today accidentally broadcast 45 minutes of Olympic coverage coast to coast.

Errors happen (especially these days when fewer people are controlling more channels), and though I’m not quite satisfied by the explanation that this was a “technical issue”, what amuses me about this story is the errant headline produced by Canadian Press about it (since corrected), that lets us see which websites don’t even read stories before they’re posted:

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Lightfoot hoax leaves many questions

In case you missed it, the media and media-criticizing world was all a-Twitter today (<– OMG BEST PUN EVER!) over false reports that singer Gordon Lightfoot had died.

Some false media reports quoted Canwest, specifically political reporter David Akin, who tweeted about it, citing “sources close to the singer,” others to Lightfoot friend Ronnie Hawkins, who confirmed the news to the media. Some weren’t sure what their source was.

The Vancouver Sun was the first or among the first to post the story, which was published by Canwest News Service, and posted to Canada.com and the National Post:

National Post story that Gordon Lightfoot has died

From there it spread, apparently to Quebecor’s Canoe, to blogs (including Maclean’s), Twitter and lesser news sources, some of whom said the news was unconfirmed, though most just assumed that all the reports from respectable media must have meant it was true (I’m looking at you, SooToday.com).

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Welcome to misquotania, Luc

Plateau borough mayor Luc Ferrandez went on a bit of a rant Saturday on his blog about the media’s handling of a story about changes to parking regulations. Apparently a Radio-Canada story was exaggerated with its headline, a Presse Canadienne story and an Astral Media story just re-reported the RadCan story without checking it, and everyone went crazy over a non-story that’s had no new developments since the election.

The outburst was enough for an Agence QMI story to be written about Ferrandez’s reaction (the QMI story quotes 24H, apparently unable to read Ferrandez’s blog for itself).

UPDATE (Jan. 10): Ferrandez has cut out the media-critical part of that post, explaining in another that it was un-mayor-like. To me, the best part about Ferrandez is that he’s un-mayor-like. But maybe it rubbed a few people the wrong way.

It’s funny (and unusual) for us regular folk to see a politician air these annoyances publicly like this. Normally they just call the reporter directly, or call the reporter’s manager, or complain to friends. If the case is serious enough, they might write a letter to the editor.

But what strikes me about Ferrandez’s post is that this is part of his education process as a rookie borough mayor. He’s not used to the idea of the media getting a story wrong and that error propagating more quickly than it can be stopped.

As much as I’d like to defend journalists and the media here, to say that he’s got it all wrong, instead I can only offer that he should get used to this. This isn’t the last time he’ll be misquoted, not the last time someone will get the story wrong because they went for the sensationalism over caution, were lazy or just confused.

Journalists are human. They make mistakes. And with all the cutbacks in the news business these days, those mistakes are going to get worse.

All shelters look alike

It happens to every journalist, some of us more often than others: you get something wrong. Not just getting it wrong, but getting it wrong enough to prompt an angry phone call and a correction.

In the Monday Calendar which came out this week (I do the weekly calendar on A2 on Mondays), I mentioned a fundraising campaign that the Welcome Hall Mission is doing on Wednesday where volunteers will ask for donations in the metro.

Except the Welcome Hall Mission has no such campaign. It’s Accueil Bonneau that’s doing that.

You might think it’s a small error, that won’t make much of a difference to anyone, and that’s perfectly understandable (Welcome Hall Mission is Mission Bon Accueil in French), but as a journalist there are no small errors (or, more honestly, an error isn’t small if it needs a correction).

On the plus side, this personal disgrace embarrassing error of mine gives me an excuse to point out that the Gazette is making an effort to correct articles online when an error is pointed out. My calendar for this week includes a note at the top in correctionese pointing out the mistake.

Doing this isn’t always as simple as it seems. There might be multiple copies of an offending article, for example. Or the correction might not get passed on to the online desk. But it’s necessary (if only to placate Craig Silverman), so everyone has to make an effort to do it.

La Presse? What’s that?

Speaking of the linguistic divide, this from a story in the Globe and Mail about the state of newspapers:

In Canada, every major newspaper company (including The Globe and Mail) has undertaken significant layoffs in the past year and the Halifax Daily News has folded.

Now, I follow Canadian media pretty closely, and it’s true that Canwest, CTVglobemedia, Sun Media, Torstar, FP Newspapers, and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald have announced layoffs. But unless I missed an announcement somewhere, Gesca (La Presse, Le Soleil) and Le Devoir haven’t, and certainly haven’t undertaken “significant layoffs” unless they did so secretly.

But I guess since they’re French papers, they don’t count.

Come on, people, I can’t keep this country together by myself.

Said, Sid, whatever

He looks like a terrorist, doesn't he?

He does look like a terrorist, doesn't he?

A fellow journalist spotted this on Canoe’s website. It’s a story (from “Agence QMI”) about a man on trial for his alleged role in a bomb plot.

Only the guy in the photo isn’t Saïd Namouh, it’s Sidhartha Banerjee, a reporter for Canadian Press who has been covering the trial.

The photo has since been removed from the story. I don’t know if that’s because someone told them it was a CP reporter, or because someone realized that Saïd Namouh actually looks like this:

Saïd Namouh

Saïd Namouh

UPDATE: Rue Frontenac says Banerjee himself called up Canoë to complain.

It’s not the first time the news has put up the wrong picture in a criminal case (usually it’s the lawyer being identified as the client), but it’s pretty rare that a journalist gets the rap (especially since most journalists are familiar with each other).

And some people suggested that a Journal de Montréal lockout would cause a degradation in the quality of reporting…

Steve Proulx also has a blog post about this, based off the same screen grab. News has since spread to Branchez-Vous and Regret the Error.