Thursday, March 1, 2012

On behalf of the silent minor

My daughter is a minor celebrity this morning. By that I mean both that she is under 18 and famous, and that she is really not that famous at all. And I'm angry. Lest you think that this is simply a case of my free floating hatred of humanity, I will explain the connection. You see, she is famous, but for the wrong reason.

A few weeks ago, she was cuddling up to a copy of People (we don't let her date actual people, just magazines) and she called me over. She pointed out that in an article about a woman who started a refuge for abused kids, the article claims that the woman was arrested in 1986 and the mugshot clearly says 1989. Or something like that. Bottom line is, she found an error -- a disconnect between the claim and the evidence. The year seemed important in the flow of the article so this mismatch changed the timing of the events and the entire logic of the story being told. She decided to write in and let them know of their error.

Instead of jumping in with two feet and attacking, she began with a paragraph praising the magazine in general and the article in particular, and then she transitioned beautifully into a paragraph pointing out the mistake. I was hoping that she would get a mention in their correction or even a letter printed in the letters section with a note praising her eagle-eyed reading.

This morning, after hearing from the magazine that they would be publishing part of her letter, we woke up early and drove to 3 stores to find the magazine as it hit news stands. She opened it up and read the letter they printed. They started with the paragraph in which she falls all over herself to praise the article and how it has inspired her. Then they stopped.

They deleted any and all mention of the error!

She is, of course, ecstatic. And I am, of course, livid.

The whole goal of the letter was to show them an error -- to prove that my teenager has more common sense and awareness than their underpaid editorial staff. I can understand if they chose not to print the letter at all, but they kept the part which was pure praise, thus making my child look like some drooling idiot who was inspired to write a letter of praise to a magazine. We don't do that in my house. No one pats you on the back just for doing your job. You are SUPPOSED to write stories about people in People. No kudos for that. But they made themselves look good while never admitting the mistake!

Now, in their defense, they did send the child an email explaining that they don't print corrections of "production errors." I am not in the magazine game and maybe my idea of what a production error is different from theirs, but this is not a "production error." This is an error in logic, writing, fact checking and proofreading. Hiding behind the "we printed the wrong picture" excuse doesn't work because the fact that this picture exists and points to a different date changes the truth value of the article. Journalistic integrity demands that they admit and clarify.

So the child, still overjoyed at seeing her name in print (and yet I can't use her name in a Facebook update...go figure) has been used by the man. And I am left alone, to fight the good fight.

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