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Check out Craig Silverman’s roundup of worst business-reporting errors in 2010

Regret the Business ErrorJournalists on every beat are looking back at the trends and stories that defined the past 12 months. I engage in my own annual retrospective on Regret the Error by offering the Year in Media Errors and Corrections and a round-up of incidents of journalistic plagiarism. Business journalism was represented in both.

For example, this correction from the Boston Globe was included among my favorite typos:

“At least a couple of dozen readers kindly wrote to point out that when I called Wall Street bankers ‘glutinous’ in a Wednesday column, I probably meant ‘gluttonous.’ I’d love to tell you otherwise, but I apologize for the mistake.”

I’m also partial to this business-related typo from the Los Angeles Times:

“Bell councilman: In the Oct. 13 Section A, a profile of Lorenzo Velez, the only Bell City Council member not charged with a crime, described Bell as ‘a city dominated by blue-color Mexican immigrants like himself.’ It should have said ‘blue-collar.'”

My look back at incidents of plagiarism noted the fate of New York Times business reporter Zachery Kouwe, who resigned after it was revealed he had lifted material from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources.

One notable error from the past year that didn’t make my lists was the Daily Mail’s business story about a potential recall of the iPhone 4 that was based solely on a tweet from a fake Steve Jobs Twitter account. Not exactly a high point for business reporting…

Statute with head in hands by Flickr user Alex E. Proimos

Image by Flickr user Alex E. Proimos.

Over the course of the year, I collected a variety of business-related corrections. They typically appear on my site under the headline “Bad for business” because they illustrate how careless reporting can damage a company or businessperson. Below are a few that bear repeating, including this correction to an error-riddled real estate report from the Los Angeles Times:

“Bel-Air mansion: An article in Friday’s Section A about the Bel-Air mansion that is the most expensive sold in the U.S. this year was published with a photograph of another house and some of the details related to that house. The photo of the correct house is shown here. The exterior of the mansion does not feature more than 30,000 pieces of limestone mined in France. The entry, living room, library and master bedroom are not gilded with 24-karat gold. The home doesn’t have 90 sconces and 120 chandeliers made in France, and it does not have an average room size of about 1,100 square feet. In addition, the article said that Joyce Rey and Stacy Gottula of Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills shared the listing with Mauricio Umansky of Hilton & Hyland, Beverly Hills. Rey and Gottula had the listing alone.”

Other notables include this from The Cairns Post in Australia:

“In yesterday’s edition of The Cairns Post, it was wrongly reported that Mr Bob Harris was flying with another man in a four-seat Cessna 172 when it crashed about 20kms southwest of Mt Coleridge, near Innisfail.
Mr Harris was not flying in the plane which crashed.
Mr Harris’ flight school business and Hinchinbrook Air Services charters continues to operate.
The Cairns Post accepts that our article has caused considerable embarrassment to Mr Harris. The Cairns Post apologises for the error.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“A Dec. 25 front-page story about commercial properties scheduled for foreclosure auctions had incorrect information. The Dunwoody Hall retail center in DeKalb County has not been foreclosed on and is not scheduled for foreclosure auction.”

Toronto Sun:

“A series of articles concerning illegal sales of tobacco products published in the Sun (including its webpage) on Friday, April 9, included photographs and video footage of the ‘DKs’ and ‘Putters’ tobacco products manufactured by Grand River Enterprises Six Nations Ltd.
The Sun wishes to clarify that it did not intend to suggest that these products are in any way illegal or that there is anything illegal or improper about production or sale of these products in circumstances that are permitted under Canadian law.
The article was intended to highlight concern over the sale of cigarettes that are illegally distributed in violation of Ontario’s Tobacco Tax Act.

The Dominion Post (New Zealand):

“Yesterday’s editorial about the potential sale of 16 Crafar farms to a Chinese consortium said the farms were placed in receivership when the Crafar family went bankrupt. That is incorrect. None of the directors of the Crafar farms or members of the Crafar family have been made bankrupt. The companies that own the farms were placed in receivership by the bank that lent money to them. The error is regretted.”

New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“Seafood story erred: Amy’s Seafood in Westwego is paying 75 cents to $1.50 more per pound for shrimp since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill created a shortage. A story in Friday’s editions incorrectly reported the price as 75 cents to $1.50 per pound. The story also said that while patrons of one seafood stand know products it sells are safe, ‘the same cannot be said for customers of Amy’s Seafood, which occupies a nearby stall.’ The seafood sold at Amy’s is safe.”

The Associated Press:

“In a story July 27 about Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., The Associated Press, relying on a preliminary transcript from StreetEvents.com, erroneously reported a quote by President and CEO Marc Casper. Casper’s correct quote: ‘We are especially pleased with our organic growth results given the head winds of a weak flu season and the Biosite contract transition, which together lowered our organic growth by over a percentage point in the quarter.’ He did not say ‘especially concerned’ or use the word ‘bioscience’ in his comment.

Keep those mistakes in mind as you enter a new year of business reporting. Here’s to fewer errors in 2011! For ideas on how to achieve that goal, please see this archive of Regret the Business Error tips.

About the Author

Craig Silverman (@CraigSilverman) is founder and editor of Regret the Error, a website that reports on media accuracy and corrections. He is the author of a book of the same name, and serves as the managing editor of PBS MediaShift and digital journalism director of OpenFile.ca.

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