Almost Perfect

Regular readers know that the New York Times’ Corrections section is one of my favorite sources of posts. The Times’ corrections provide a glimpse into the minds of America’s media elite. They are often shocking, revealing bias and ignorance in equal measures; they are sometimes funny, and sometimes mind-numbingly pretentious. Today’s Corrections section includes a case in point:

A report in the F.Y.I. column of this section on Dec. 15, 2002, about the America’s Cup, credited it erroneously with a precedent. It is the world’s oldest sailing trophy, first awarded in 1851, but not “the oldest trophy in sport.” The Scorton Silver Arrow is considered the oldest, awarded annually in an English archery tournament since 1673. (The error also occurred in sports articles on Jan. 10, 2003; Dec. 22, 2002; May 10, 1992; Dec. 25, 1983; Sept. 27, 1983; Sept. 25, 1983; June 12, 1983; and Jan. 16, 1983; as well as editorials on May 19, 1992, and Jan. 21, 1987; also a Travel article on Sept. 4, 1983, and the Saturday News Quiz on June 18, 1983.) A reader’s letter dated this past April 12 reported the error.

So scrupulous, and so close to perfect: that’s the impression the reader is intended to glean from such exercises in pedantry. How nice that the Times has sent an employee scurrying through twenty years of archives to ensure that the record is set straight, and the Scorton Silver Arrow is not slighted. Now if the newspaper would only correct its erroneous reporting of, say, President Bush’s State of the Union speeches.

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