Tuesday, February 03, 2009

There are many reasons to love The New Yorker

Among them, this paragraph from an article on fact checking by John McPhee:

The worst (fact) checking error is calling people dead are not dead. In the words of Josh Hersh (described in the preceding paragraph as the modern fact checker who is characteristically calmer than marble) "It really annoys them." Sara (the fact checker McPhee is writing about) remembers a reader in a nursing home who read in The New Yorker that he was "the late" reader in the nursing home. He wrote demanding a correction. The New Yorker in its next issue, of course complied, inadvertently doubling the error, because the reader died over the weekend while the magazine was being printed.


Sarah Jensen said...

I don't know what else to say.

Merry Monteleone said...


I wonder if the fact checker is psychic...

acpaul said...

That last part was so funny it made the whole thing worth reading. :)

JES said...

That is a funny story. Wonder if they did one of their little "Department of Amplification" thingies after the second error?

When he was appearing in the magazine more often, McPhee himself used to be almost reason alone to love The NYer, and also just a *funny* writer at the least expected moments. In his little book about oranges (which had originally appeared in The NYer), he went on at some length about how flat Florida's terrain is. Which was interesting, as he wrote it, and he didn't overdo it. Then he went on to discuss something else for a page or so, and changed the scene to an orange orchard somewhere in central Florida. He described the orchard as being on a hill, "soaring up to a height of 200 feet about sea level" (or whatever the altitude was).

If you weren't paying attention you could have easily skipped right over that "soaring." It dazzled me -- he'd slipped the joke in at *exactly* the right moment, just far enough from the earlier Florida-is-flat passage, just close enough to the 200 (or whatever).

Angie Bailey said...

Hmmm... a psychic fact checker... checking facts that haven't already happened... Now my brain hurts :)

Rick Daley said...

The media is always right. It's reality that is often wrong.

Scott said...

In related news . . . out to dinner one night with friends and my partner says "I haven't seen Tony in years, I wonder how he's doing?" A friend of ours says, "Oh, he died." My parnter was really upset.

One hour later, at the bar having drinks and . . . "dead" Tony walks into the bar. We laughed until we cried after my partner said, "Well, Tony looks pretty good for a dead man."

Yes, this is a true story. The inadvertent remarker has never made a similar comment since then . . . always afraid the "dead" person might suddenly appear. ; )

ryan field said...

Ha!! ...Scott

Shell I said...

I had to leave this comment when my Grandfather was a younger man living in Wales he read about his own death in the newspaper.

Apparently there was another Joesph Davies in wales born on the same date in the same town (go figure) but as my Grandfather was relatively well known it was just assumed that it was him by the local paper. Hence it has an obit to him :) You can imagine his surprise.

Steve Stubbs said...

When I was a kid I had a series of crummy jobs to work my way through college, not knowing, as I do now, that college is a total waste of time. One of these jobs was standing in a 7-11 store late at night waiting to get shot, and one of my customers was an undertaker who always came in late at night. He specialized in the dead, in other words. He had that carefully practiced somber undertaker demeanor, so I used to try to crack him up with bad jokes. Never worked. One night I asked him if he was "just dead," since it was very late at night. Not the slightest hint of a smile. I got to him, though, because he told me I would be laughing out the other side of my mouth if I knew how much money there was in dead bodies. He felt compelled to tell me how much money there was in dead bodies. When he told me I felt compelled to whistle.

After that death took on a whole new meaning for me. The "late" readers are making somebody a lot of money. They are stimulating the economy, in other words. So I would submit that the rest of them need to go and do likewise. Giving hundreds of billions away to pay bonuses to wealthy bankers the way George Bush did is not a good way.

Maybe the New Yorker is trying, in its small way, to pull us out of an economic slump.

JS said...

When I was an undergraduate, I worked in the college music library.

One day around graduation/reunion time, the phone rings. On the other end is an obviously elderly man. "I hear that there's going to be a special memorial concert on June 5th" (or whatever the date was).

"Why, yes," I said.

"Could you tell me who's on the memorial concert program?"

"Certainly." I got the program out of the drawer and read it to him. "Let's see: Chadwick, and Hindemith, and Virgil Thomson, and Randall Thompson."

Silence on the other end of the phone.

"Could you read those last two to me again?"

"Certainly. It's {title of piece} by Virgil Thomson, and {title of piece} by Randall Thompson."

Silence on the other end of the phone.

"And this is a memorial concert, yes?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, there's a bit of a problem, then. Because I am Randall Thompson, and I'm not ready to be memorialized yet."

I squeaked something reassuring into the phone and forwarded the call to the concert director's office phone. Yikes!

Jessica Milne said...

I know that shouldn't have made me laugh... but it did. ^^;