Join me, please, in meditating on our journalism question of the day: When publications make an error of fact and correct it, should they (a) change it quickly and move on or (b) change it and run a correction notice? Some of you may want to add a qualifying clause that says something like, "It depends on how important the error is, yada yada." So here is a recent case study in a prominent publication.
If you click on over to the website for Time magazine, you can read the coverage of one of the more poignant religion stories of the past week or so -- coverage of President Barack Obama's speech/sermon (text here) to the 14,000 participants in the Tucson memorial service for those who were gunned down at the Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rally.
As noted by many news organizations, the speech included more than a few religious references and allusions. Here's a Religion News Service analysis of that for those interested in some depth on the subject.
The Time story notes the following specifics:
Perhaps in response to the lingering falsehoods about his religious beliefs, Obama twice quoted the Bible, and was preceded to the microphones by two Cabinet Secretaries who also read from Scripture. And Obama offered a pointed brushback to those in the liberal and conservative press who have tried to gain advantage from the shootings. "It's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that -- that heals, not in a way that wounds," he said.
But the best parts of the speech left politics behind completely. When he spoke of Christina Green, the murdered 9-year-old girl, he spoke as the father of a 9-year-old himself, his voice straining a bit. "If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today," he said. This was his point, after all: that we are all just parents, or children, or spouses, all of us just Americans. He wanted us to use this time to remember this fact, and to order our lives accordingly.
No problem, right?
Actually there was a rather picky mistake in an earlier version of this report. A religion-news veteran sent me a note about it.
You see, it appeared that the original story (please check this, if you already have your tree-pulp version of Time) contained one additional word. Thus, that first paragraph in the above quotation at one time read:
Perhaps in response to the lingering falsehoods about his religious beliefs, he twice quoted the Bible, and was preceded to the microphones by two Cabinet Secretaries who also read from Christian scripture.
Religion is such a picky, picky beat.
Yes, it is true that Secretary of Homeland Security and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano elected to share parts of Isaiah, chapter 40 at the event. That was an interesting choice, in part because of the famous opening words, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God." This part of the passage, of course, play a prominent role in G.F. Handel's "Messiah." There are other interesting (even provocative) passages in this text, before it ends with an additional note of comfort:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
While it is true that Christians love to read and reflect on this chapter, it is most strange to refer to the Book of Isaiah as a "Christian" scripture, since it is in the Hebrew Bible (or in the Old Testament in a Christian Bible).
Thus, the word "Christian" was dropped in the current, online version of the story. I do not see a correction anywhere. Perhaps I missed it?
You make the call: Run a correction? Slip in the correction without sending up flares, since it is only a picky fact about religion?