Washington Post Correction Compounds Error

Call me bewildered. More than two days after the publication of a dead-wrong statement in media critic Howard Kurtz’s column, the Washington Post has run a correction that not only doesn’t fix the problem but actually compounds the error.

Here’s the blow-by-blow so far:

In his Media Notes column Monday, Kurtz discussed a Boston Globe piece about the way Kenya is trying to capitalize on the fact that President Obama’s father was born and raised there and that some of Obama’s relatives remain in the country. Kurtz started this item, “The Boston Globe has an interesting piece from Obama’s native country on attempts to cash in” — a flat misstatement.

Obama is a native American, born in Hawii, who lived outside the U.S. (but not in Kenya) during part of his childhood. Kenya is no more his “native country” than Poland, where my mother was born, is mine.

On Monday afternoon in his weekly online chat, Kurtz somewhat grudgingly acknowledged his mistake, which I’d assumed was an innocent one. When a reader asked, in a joking way, whether Kurtz was now a Birther, the columnist responded, “Oy. I obviously meant the country of his father. He wrote a book about it.”

So “obviously” this was the readers’ fault, for not knowing what Kurtz meant to say even though he said something quite different.

OK, fine. These things happen. But the Post didn’t correct the column on the website. The language continued to read “Obama’s native country” — and I was among many other folks wondering why.

Sometime during the past several hours, the Post changed Kurtz’s column and ran the following correction:

An earlier version of this column online also mistakenly referred to Kenya as President Obama’s “native country” instead of his ancestral homeland.

Progress at last, and somewhat more true than the original, but this correction (reflected in the changed column) is still not fully accurate. Why? Because Obama’s ancestral homeland is also the United States. His mother is from the Farm Belt, and her forebears go back generations in the U.S. Middle West. Kenya is one of Obama’s ancestral homelands, but not the only one.

The correction they could have run — precise and clear — would have said something like this:

An earlier version of this column online also mistakenly referred to Kenya as President Obama’s “native country” instead of the birthplace and homeland of his father.

I don’t think I’m being picky here. And I have to say I’m puzzled by the the Post’s grudging and still flawed correction.

One thought on “Washington Post Correction Compounds Error”

  1. No, you’re not picky. It was a boneheaded mistake. WaPo could have corrected it to “the native country of Obama’s father.”

    Maybe Howie ought to spend less time working for CNN and more time checking his facts for his ostensible employer.

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