By now, many of you know that I have a keen eye for unusual corrections in newspapers.
That’s mostly because, as a reporter for 25 years and and editor for almost 12, I lived in fear of winding up on the correction page. (It happened more often than I care to admit.)
Occasionally, I would wake up in the night and either fear or realize that I had made a mistake in a story and that it was too late to correct it. Sometimes, before going to bed, I would call the copy desk and make sure that my mind was not playing tricks on me and that I had written something the way I remembered having written it.
Then, there was one nightmarish correction — like one I’m going to tell you about — where I had to write a correction to a correction. That night, I’ll never forget, the night city editor said, “Fitz, I bet you’ll be glad to get this one behind you.”
But it happens. It evens happens to The New York Times.
A correction that ran in The Times on page A2 yesterday was a doozy. It started out like this:
“An article on Thursday about a push to ban horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park misstated part of the name of an organization to which an upstate New York veterinarian belongs…”
After correcting the organization’s name, it went on to the more embarrassing mistake: The original story had referred to the carriages as “hansom cabs,” and that, as it turned out, is a misnomer.
As the correction noted, “…the carriages have four wheels, and therefore are not ‘hansom cabs,’ which are two-wheeled. An accompanying picture caption, as well as a subheading in some editions, and a correction in this space on Friday repeated the error about the cabs.”
So, there’s the correction to the correction. But there’s more…
The last line of the correction, in parentheses, went like this:
(A reader pointed out this inaccuracy in a letter published in The Times in 1985, but this is the first correction of numerous such references through the years.)
Think about that…The Times had referred to carriages as hansom cabs “numerous” times over the last 26 years, despite a reader’s best effort to get the paper on the right path in 1985.
Well, at least The Times was big enough to acknowledge a 26-year track record of screw-ups on the same subject.
To its credit, The Times is anal about accuracy, and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
And one thing I can guarantee you is that Emily B. Hager, who wrote that front-page story, is now an authority on the distinction between horse-draw cabs and carriages.
Now, as I trot off to bed, I’ll leave you with what a hansom cab looks like…
And its cousin, a horse-drawn carriage…