There are classicists who cannot count, there are engineers who cannot read, and there’s Jona who doesn’t understand how newspapers work. I already blogged about a stupid mistake for which I am responsible: although I realized that, after an interview to Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool, I had to control the text before it was printed, I forgot to control the summary, which was printed on the frontpage and informed the readers that Amsterdam was already inhabited in Roman times. This piece was also on the newspaper’s website.
That evening, I wrote a letter to the Amsterdam city archaeologist, explaining what had happened. Next day, I called the journalist, explaining that the summary was misleading, and he suggested me to write an article for the newspaper, in which I could explain what had gone wrong. So I did, and it was printed yesterday. I am grateful to Het Parool, which shared my concern.
However, the newspaper did more. It replaced the website version with the full text of the interview. Unfortunately, it was too late: the summary had already been copied by several other websites, and I spent this weekend sending e-mails and calling people, explaining what had gone wrong.
I made a surprising discovery. When I asked a blogger, he or she understood there was a problem and the summary was immediately removed. No matter what kind of blog or website, whether an archaeologist’s blog or an Islamic discussion board, the people realized that desinformation is a problem. Only one newspaper still has to remove it from its website.
I now have some doubts about the common wisdom that “old media” maintain journalistic standards, while “new media” are careless. This example would suggest that it’s the other way round, although failing e-mail may explain all.