After some interesting comments to my last entry, I thought Bob Steel's column at Poynter Online - http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=80837&sid=32 - was timely. To recap, Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom wrote a column about collegiate nostalgia and included descriptions of two former Michigan State stars attending the most recent NCAA Tournament's Final Four. Turns out the two athletes, Mateen Cleeves and Jason Richardson, weren't even at the game.
In his apology, Albom explains he wrote the column on Friday for a Sunday edition, and made assumptions they would be there based on previous interviews. The bigger problem is Albom wrote in a first-person, narrative sort of way that made it clear to readers Albom was translating an event seen specifically through his own eyes.
Steel correctly points out this kind of mistake deserves more than just an "oops." It's the egregious kind of error that shows just how gullible we journalists sometime think our readers are. Not that credibility is a favorable market for traditional journalism these days, but the preponderence of these kinds of mistakes -- and the weak excuses offered in pointless apologies -- only gives more fodder for our growing number of critics.
I freely admit sins of omission -- failing to pursue all the truth all the time. However, I can comfortably say I've never guessed on the truth and have even taken out more titilating portions of stories because I could not confirm or deny the accuracy.