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Friday, April 4, 2008

Post-Dispatch Easter Resurrection Retraction: Regret the Error Blogger's Take

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 4:27 PM

Craig Silverman, editor of the Web site Regret the Error and author of a book by the same name, got back to me this afternoon about the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's March 30 retraction, which I posted about here.


This past Sunday the paper ran a detailed correction and apology for a story it had published on Easter Sunday, March 23. That front-page feature told the story of a woman who had overcome an abusive spouse and homelessness; it turned out the protagonist had fabricated the entire tale, complete with a fake name.

Silverman says the Post-Dispatch deserves credit for being so forthcoming. In the apology, authored by editor Arnie Robbins and managing editor Pam Maples, the paper concedes that its standards for verification weren't followed.

"They had some internal breakdown. There's actually something positive about that. I haven't seen a lot of papers admit that they also had a role in the mistaken thing in the paper," says Silverman, a freelance journalist in Montreal who also writes about workplace culture for the Toronto Globe and Mail.

But Silverman questions the paper's choice of where to publish its retraction. The Post chose page A2. If the original, front-page story was so "terribly wrong," Silverman asks, why did the paper not run the retraction on page one? "I would argue that's a front-page mistake," he says.

Likewise, Silverman differs with the Post's decision to permanently remove the story from While erasing an error from the public record might seem like the most logical course of action, Silverman says, he advocates leaving erroneous stories online with corrections appended.

"For the sake of the historical record, for the sake of even learning from the mistake, you need to keep what's there," he says.

You can read Silverman's post about the incident here.

-Kathleen McLaughlin

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