We would have thought that the devastation of mainstream media in general – and the newspaper industry in particular – would confer some humility on daily newspaper editors. Then we read a story like this one.
To summarize: A man in his 40s who has lived a mostly trouble-free life with his wife and children picks up the newspaper one day to find his photo on the front page next to a story about a child rapist who happens to have the same name. It appears the newspaper had used a file photo taken 11 months earlier without making much effort to check that the person in the photo was the same as the person who had been indicted. Both men are named Angel Ortiz, a Spanish name that’s about as common as Nick Jones in the English-speaking world. Furthermore, no one at the newspaper appeared to notice that the Ortiz who had been charged with rape is in his 20s while the Ortiz in the photo is in his 40s.
That’s bad enough, but what really angered us was this passage:
[Ortiz lawyer David] Rich said he wrote a letter to The MetroWest Daily News Editor Richard Lodge on Dec. 16, demanding a front page retraction. Lodge responded the paper would run something the next day, Saturday, Dec. 17, according to Rich, and he told Rich the photo was “immediately removed the photo from the website,” upon receipt of the letter.
“The retraction ran on the bottom of page 2, with no photo,” said Rich…Ortiz never received a personal letter of apology from anyone at the daily newspaper, added Rich.
According to Rich, Ortiz lost his job after the story appeared and has been unable to find employment. He hides in his house for fear that he will be assaulted if recognized in public. He’s living in hell thanks to a mistake that could have been easily avoided with a look into the archives or an address check.
In our view, a front-page retraction and apology would be the least the paper could do to help put this guy’s life back in order. But they didn’t even send a letter.
What do you think the editors should have done?
This entry was posted on Saturday, February 11th, 2012 at 10:38 am and is filed under Journalism, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.