A laugh-or-cry correction: In Florida shooting story, AP hears 'sit and shiver' instead of 'sitting shiva'


Here at GetReligion, we always enjoy a good correction from the world of religion news. Yes, it's a character flaw for which we probably need to repent.

But who can forget a few years ago when The Times of London reported that John Paul II was the first non-Catholic pope? They meant first non-Italian pope.

Or remember when NPR referred to "the late evangelist Rev. Billy Graham" — a year and a half before he actually died?

Well, now The Associated Press has issued "a correction for the ages," as one Twitter user aptly characterized it.

Here is the correction:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — In a story Feb. 22 about the Florida school shooting, The Associated Press misquoted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel in some versions of the story when he spoke about the families of the victims. He said, “I’ve been to their homes where they’re sitting shiva,” not “where they sit and shiver.”

As you might imagine, Twitter has taken notice of AP's mistake:

What was the context of the AP mistake? It came in a story about an armed resource officer who stayed outside during the massacre that claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The mixup occurred in a quote attributed to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel:

The officer, Scot Peterson, was suspended without pay and placed under investigation, then chose to resign, Israel said. When asked what Peterson should have done, Israel said the deputy should have “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.”
The sheriff said he was “devastated, sick to my stomach. There are no words. I mean these families lost their children. We lost coaches. I’ve been to the funerals. I’ve been to the homes where they sit and shiver. I’ve been to the vigils. It’s just, ah, there are no words.”

In case you're unfamiliar with the difference between "sit and shiver" and "sitting shiva," the Religion News Association's religion stylebook has this entry:

The Jewish term for the seven-day period of mourning in which close relatives “sit shiva” after a person’s funeral. During shiva, mourners abstain from work, sex, learning and following other rules. Mourners often sit on low stools or benches to symbolize how they are brought low by grief, and they cover all mirrors in the shiva house to focus on the deceased rather than on their own vanity. The purpose of shiva is to honor the dead and to help the mourner grieve. Others visit a home where someone is sitting shiva.

The Forward, a Jewish publication, noted:

This is not the first time that the secular media has gotten confused about the concept of sitting shiva, a seven-day mourning period. In 2015, The New York Times had to issue a correction after confusing a shiva call with sitting shiva itself. The Times also had to correct another part of the article: “Also, an earlier version of this article and its accompanying headline incorrectly compared JSwipe users to yentas. Yentas are busybodies, not matchmakers.”
Of course, no news organization is immune from errors — not even the Forward. This correction, from a 2013 article, is probably best read without context: “The Forward previously reported that [former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael] Oren reached for the ham, which misrepresented what Leibovich wrote in his book. Leibovich’s account never insinuated that Oren ate the ham. The Forward regrets the error.”

Perfection is so much easier in hindsight. I can't help but wonder: If I had been the reporter (or editor) on this story, could such a silly error have slipped past me? If I had been working overtime on an all-encompassing story like the Florida school shooting, might I have typed "sit and shiver" instead of "sitting shiva?" Might I be looking like a real idiot right now?

I sure hope not. But I can't say so with 100 percent certainty. With that in mind, I'm willing to give AP the benefit of the doubt this time. What about you, kind GetReligion readers? Is "sit and shiver" a forgivable offense?

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