The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A flash or two of gold amongst the ombud dross

If the will and effectiveness of the media's effort to be accountable are to be judged by the ombud pieces (as rounded up by Romenesko each week), there's not much of either.

This week's crop include endless obsessing about getting names right [1] - and, from Daniel Okrent, the ombud most in the spotlight, post-Jayson Blair, an abject piece (of all of 240 words) on his misquoting a Times hack in an earlier piece.

Michael Getler at least puts his head above the parapet in a parenthetical comment on the Bush imminent threat controversy - in any otherwise uninspiring piece.

Some joy, though, in the Toronto Star in the form of anecdotage used to illustrate the fact that most stuff in quotation marks is not direct quotation.

Early this week, the Star recalled former U.S. vice-president Dan Quayle visited Nicaragua in 1990 after "telling reporters he was boning up on his Latin in order to talk to the locals."

Here's the full quote long linked to the stumble-prone politico: "I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn't study Latin harder in school so that I could converse with those people."

Terrific. Except as Laura Minter, Quayle's secretary, reports by e-mail: "He never said it." She said it began on late-night TV as "a joke that became mainstream media" until The Washington Post ran an editorial acknowledging the mistake.

One Web site ( attributes the remark to U.S. congresswoman Claudine Schneider of Rhode Island, who told it as a joke, only to see Newsday, the Chicago Tribune, Newsweek and Time report it as fact.

And there's the tale of British hack Max Hastings and a supposed quote from Conrad Black (the Hollinger incubus) about his ability to drown kittens...

  1. An important part of quality control - but at the most mechanical end of the spectrum. If your an ombudsman, and you've only got one short piece a week - it's evidence of such a warped order of priorities as to suggest a snow-job. Perhaps its a start-of-year thing: one piece a year would be understandable. But no more.


Quality control not always an aid to understanding - spell-checking the piece as I do (pause for ribaldry...) I find an instance of ombdud. My bequest to the (media) nation...

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