If the New York Post isn't correcting its terrible marathon coverage, what does it correct?

It's been a tough week at the New York Post. When news first broke of the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the Post was far ahead of other media outlets, reporting that 12 people had been killed in the attack. It all seemed very plausible, and it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that the Post had some iron-clad law enforcement source feeding it casualty reports that bordered on the clairvoyant.

Then it all fell apart. Every media outlet not named the New York Post nailed down the death toll at three, and the Post was left looking rather silly. Then the paper reported that a Saudi national kept under guard at a local hospital had been named a "suspect." That too turned out to be false. Today, the Post managed to really outdo itself, splashing a photo of two dark-skinned young men whom the paper claimed were sought by the FBI. "BAG MEN," the headline screamed, "Feds seek these two pictured at Boston Marathon." ABC News tracked down one of the two men, a 17-year-old runner named Salah Barhoun, who said he had decided to watch the race when he couldn't run it. "It's the worst feeling that I can possibly feel," he told ABC. "I'm only 17."

Call it the tabloid death-spiral: attempting to make readers forget yesterday's inaccuracies with even worse conjecture on today's front page. When asked to comment on the article, Post editor Col Allan said he stands by the story:

We stand by our story. The image was emailed to law enforcement agencies yesterday afternoon seeking information about these men, as our story reported. We did not identify them as suspects.

This afternoon, the Post caught up somewhat to the facts, reporting that the two men on their cover had been cleared by investigators.

In all fairness, the paper has gotten some things right in its coverage. As Vanity Fair points out (for another priceless take on the paper's editorial strategy, see the Onion):

  • The New York Post correctly reported that the Boston Marathon takes place in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • "Boston" is spelled correctly.
  • The current governor of the state is Deval Patrick
  • Participants in the Boston Marathon are, in American English, colloquially referred to as "runners."
  • Massachusetts General Hospital is a medical facility.

So what's going on at the Post? In its initial story on the attacks -- the one that pegged the death toll at 12 -- the paper has simply scrubbed its initial, inaccurate reporting from the story. The number "12" is nowhere to be found, nor is a death toll. Instead, the paper simply offers: "More than 130 people were injured today as multiple explosions rocked the Boston Marathon in a 'coordinated' terror attack." Meanwhile, its story on the Saudi "suspect" remains online without a correction, editor's note, or any kind of acknowledgement that it is completely false.

In situations like this, standard journalistic practice would mandate that the Post correct its inaccurate reporting. But since the paper isn't bothering to do so -- on one of the year's biggest stories, no less -- we have tracked down every correction the Post has issued in 2013 -- four in total as far. That's right, over four and a half months of coverage, the Post has issued only four corrections by our count.

To assemble these corrections, we searched the Post's website using several methods, including its internal search tool, a Google site search, and an examination of its RSS feeds (the website does not appear to have a devoted section for corrections) .

Here, then, are the four corrections issued by the Post in 2013:

The Post reported yesterday that former Rep. Anthony Weiner had landed a job as a consultant with Concept Capital Markets, a brokerage firm. This is incorrect. The firm has not employed Weiner in any capacity.

In a story published in Tuesday's Post, a woman found dead on subway tracks in lower Manhatan [sic] was misidentified by a relative as an NYU student. Emily Singleton attended The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater.

Editor's note: Yes, the New York Post really misspelled "Manhattan" in a correction.

In the April 10 Media Ink on potential candidates to lead Time Inc as CEO, the wrong job titles were reported for two rumored to be in the running. Former Time magazine President Eileen Naughton is now vice president of global sales at Google. Howard Averill is the Time Inc. chief financial officer.

A retired executive at the Food and Drug Administration claimed in a 1987 interview that a lawmaker stopped a probe into Herbalife. Also, Sen. Orrin Hatch, in the '80s, headed the Labor and Human Resources Committee and now is ranking member of the Finance Committee, which doesn't oversee the FDA. This information was incorrectly reported in a story on page 32 on March 29.

With that in mind, consider some of the corrections issued by the New York Times during the past week. From Monday to Thursday, the Times issued 28 corrections in total, the highlights of which are here:

An article on April 6 about the deaths of two horses at the Grand National meeting at Aintree Racecourse in England misidentified, in some editions, the race in which the horse Little Josh broke a shoulder and was euthanized. It was the Topham Steeplechase, not the Melling Steeplechase.

An article last Wednesday about Japanese restaurants known as izakayas misstated the name of a yogurt-flavored drink popular in Japan. It is Calpico, not Capilco.

An obituary on April 6 about the comic-book artist Carmine Infantino referred incorrectly to his work on the DC Comics character the Flash. The original Flash series was discontinued in 1949, and Mr. Infantino and the writer Robert Kanigher were assigned to create a new version of the character in 1956; the title was not "selling poorly" and "threatened with cancellation" at that time. And a caption with a picture of Mr. Infantino carried an erroneous credit. The photograph was taken by Bill Crawford, not by Marc Witz.

Never mind correct casualty counts, Times editors are apparently even concerned about the name of Japanese yogurt-flavored drinks. It's enough to make one wonder what the Post's editors do all day.


The world according to Google: 5 crazy predictions from Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen's new book

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, the 31-year-old director of Google Ideas, make some pretty bold predictions in their new book, The New Digital Age, to be published by Knopf on April 23. The future they envision is full of technological wonders -- from holograms that attend meetings you can't make to thought-controlled motion technology -- but also of heightened vulnerability. Thanks to automated, machine-precise hairdressing you may never suffer another lousy haircut, but you may also find yourself in need of Internet identity insurance, lest your online presence be hijacked by criminals looking to make a buck on the virtual-identity black market. "Virtual honor killings" and commercial drone warfare may be just over the horizon, but so might a world with better healthcare, government accountability, and technological efficiency.

The authors speculate about what enhanced connectivity will mean for citizens and states, NGOs and corporations. But the most striking passages of the book are what you would expect from a couple of Google guys: a look through the silicon looking glass at the future of technological advancement. And the authors aren't bashful. As they explain up front in the introduction: "Some of the predictions you'll read in these pages will be things you've long suspected but couldn't admit ... while others will be wholly new." Here's a look at the five craziest predictions in The New Digital Age:

Holographs in your living room:

Future videography and photography will allow you to project any still or moving image you've captured as a three-dimensional holograph.... If you're feeling bored and want to take an hour-long holiday, why not turn on your holograph box and visit Carnival in Rio? Go spend some time on a beach in the Maldives.... Frustrated by the media's coverage of the Olympics in a different time zone? Purchase a holographic pass for a reasonable price and watch the women's gymnastics team compete right in front of you, live. 

Digital healthcare:

The diagnostic capability of your mobile phone will be old news. (Of course you will be able to scan body parts the way you do bar codes.) But soon you will be benefiting from a slew of physical augmentations designed to monitor your well-being, such as microscopic robots in your circulatory system that keep track of your blood pressure, detect nascent heart disease and identify early-stage cancer. Inside your grandfather's new titanium hip there will be a chip that can act as a pedometer, monitor his insulin levels to check for the early stages of diabetes, and even trigger an automated phone call to an emergency contact if he takes a particularly hard fall and might need assistance. A tiny nasal implant will be available to you that will alert you to air-borne toxins and early signs of a cold.

Futuristic living:

Your apartment is an electronic orchestra, and you are the conductor. With simple flicks of the wrist and spoken instructions, you can control temperature, humidity, ambient music and lighting. You are able to skim through the day's news on translucent screens while a freshly cleaned suit is retrieved from your automated closet because your calendar indicates an important meeting today. You head to the kitchen for breakfast and the translucent news display follows, as a projected hologram hovering just in front of you, using motion detection, as you walk down the hallway.... Your central computer system suggests a list of chores your housekeeping robots should tackle today, all of which you approve. It further suggests that, since your coffee supply is projected to run out next Wednesday, you consider purchasing a certain larger-size container that it noticed currently on sale online. Alternatively, it offers a few recent reviews of other coffee blends your friends enjoy.

Advanced warfare:

Haptic technologies -- this refers to touch and feeling -- will produce uniforms that allow soldiers to communicate through pulses, sending out signals to one another that result in a light pinch or vibration in a particular part of the body.... Camouflage will allow soldiers to change their uniform's color, texture, pattern or scent. Uniforms might even be able to emit sounds to drown out noises soldiers might want to hide -- sounds of nature masking footsteps, for example.... Solders will have the additional ability to destroy all this technology remotely, so that capture or theft will not yield valuable intelligence secrets.

Gesture-recognition technology:

Gestural interfaces will soon move beyond gaming and entertainment into more functional areas; the futuristic information screens displayed so prominently in the film Minority Report -- in which Tom Cruise used gesture technology and holographic images to solve crimes on a computer -- are just the beginning. In fact, we've already moved beyond that -- the really interesting work today is building "social robots" that can recognize human gestures and respond to them in kind, such as a toy dog that sits when a child makes a command gesture.

And, looking further down the line, we might not need to move physically to manipulate those robots.... The possibilities for thought-controlled motion, not only for "surrogates" like separate robots but also for prosthetic limbs, are particularly exciting...

If some of this sounds a little far-fetched, it's worth noting that the authors all but predicted the 2011 Arab uprisings at a time when political scientists, their heads in the sand, were preaching about durable authoritarianism. "Governments will be caught off-guard when large numbers of their citizens, armed with virtually nothing but cell phones, take part in mini-rebellions that challenge their authority," the duo wrote in a Foreign Affairs article published in Novermber 2010. So who knows, maybe these guys are on to something. 

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