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 ...


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.

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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