The Poynter Institute, a journalism school in Florida, has published its list of the best and worst media corrections of 2012. There’s an excellent analysis of CNN’s apology and Fox News’s non-apology after both misreported the Supreme Court’s decision on the individual mandate of the President’s Affordable Care Act. The wildly different wording of CNN’s and Fox News’s statements tells you oodles about the respective media outlets in question. There’s also a somber look at how the U.K. tabloid The Sun apologized in 2012 for terrible reporting of the Hillsborough soccer stadium disaster in 1989, which killed 96 people and injured 766. (I’d judge it a good, not great, apology. It starts off by blaming the police for misleading reporters — weak. A newspaper’s job is to do its own reporting, not simply to parrot what authority figures say. It further points out that “the vast majority of current employees did not work for this newspaper in April 1989″ and “many were still at school” and “some were not even born” — hello, not at all relevant to an institutional apology. The Prime Minister of Australia was not the Prime Minister for the generations in which Aboriginal people were abused, but his apology to the Indigenous Peoples doesn’t point that out. An institutional apology should not say “I mean, dude, it wasn’t ME, PERSONALLY.”)
In The Sun case, the editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, issued his own personal apology. But I’d argue that it, too, fails to meet Susan’s good vs. bad apology standards. The editor, like his paper, blames the police for lying; he also blames other journalists for taking the police at face value. (“I too was totally misled. Twenty-three years ago I was handed a piece of copy from a reputable news agency…” JUST STOP.) The problem here is compounded by the fact that in the past, MacKenzie blamed politicians for lying to him, saying his only mistake “was I believed what an MP said.” Um, wrong-0, Mary Lou. YOU ARE A JOURNALIST. DO JOURNALISM. THAT IS YOUR JOB. (The Guardian’s piece, while clearly an exercise in schadenfreude aimed at a rival paper, is also an excellent roundup of semi-apologies.)
On a lighter note, Poynter offers up some entertaining apologies about less somber stories. The Economist, for instance, apologized for misreporting a story about the demise of the three-martini lunch:
Correction: An earlier version of this article claimed that journalists at Bloomberg Businessweek could be disciplined for sipping a spritzer at work. This is not true. Sorry. We must have been drunk on the job.
And The Atlantic apologized for a mistake in a review of the movie remake of Red Dawn:
This post originally referred to Jennifer Grey as “Ferris Bueller’s sister.” As commenters have pointed out, her role alongside Swayze in Dirty Dancing is clearly the more relevant. We regret putting Baby in a corner.
The entire Poynter piece is a must-read.