Thursday, March 10, 2005

A JOURNALIST REPEATS A FAULTY QUOTE and his newspaper issues a correction the next day. Not too shabby.
(Sydney Morning Herald) In his column yesterday, Alan Ramsey quoted from a speech made by American journalist Bill Moyers, which alleged that James Watt, a former American secretary of the interior, told the US Congress: "After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." Moyers has conceded that Watt never made that comment.
Compare this to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ten days after the Moyers' piece ran the Strib had this half-assed correction:
In quoting James Watt, Bill Moyers cited an article in Grist magazine. On Feb. 4, Grist published the following correction:

"In fact, Watt did not make such a statement to Congress. The quotation is attributed to Watt in the book 'Setting the Captives Free' by Austin Miles, but Miles does not write that it was made before Congress. Grist regrets this reporting error and is aggressively looking into the accuracy of this quotation."

The Star Tribune also regrets the error, and will report any further developments in the Grist inquiry.
Further developments? Maybe the Strip has OJ Simpson is hot on the case, determined to find some lost record of Watt making that statement. Inconceivable that Watt didn't really say it. He had to have said it, right?

The "fake, but accurate" style of journalism isn't reserved solely for retired CBS News anchor Dan Rather.