Regretting the Error


We often post Math Mistakes on this site: times when a little checking could have gone a long way. The same thing applies to journalism, and on the site Regret the Error Craig Silverman posts “media corrections, retractions, apologies, clarifications and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in the press”. They’re often amusing, like the recent correction:

A picture purporting to show Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino (Google pipped – Apple the new king of Silicon Valley as market value overtakes hi-tech rival, page 3, August 15) in fact showed Symantec’s headquarters nearby

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of mistakes that have to do with numbers and math. A LOT of mistakes. These are a little different than the math mistakes we usually post, because the problem is typically in the reporting rather than the original story, but they still include such stories as:

The Star Ledger, August 20, 2008
Due to an editing error, the For Collectors column in Saturday’s Abode section reported incorrectly that the 2009 Double Eagle gold coin would sell for $20. While the coin will have a $20 denomination, it will contain an ounce of 24-karat gold and will sell for approximately $900, depending on the value of gold at… (Story)

New Scientist, August 4, 2008
We said that Australian companies “forecast spending $800 between 2002 and 2013 on geothermal exploration” (19 July, p 24). That should have been $800 million. (Story)

The New York Times, July 15, 2008
An article last Monday about the United States Olympic swimming trials, including the accomplishments of Dara Torres at age 41, misstated the age of a Canadian swimmer from the 1972 Games. Brenda Holmes was 14, not 44, when she competed for Canada. (Story)

For a list of many of the mistakes (often titled “Fuzzy Numbers”) see here.

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