Sunday, September 6, 2009

The most baffling newspaper correction I've ever read

Usually newspaper corrections range from mistakes such as spelling a name wrong to a flat out factual error. However, highlighted in Friday's online edition of the NY Daily News is an epic correction of grand magnitude, confusion and insanity.

In Walter Dawkins' article, Roxanne Shante, who sang one of rap's pioneering 80's songs "Roxanne's Revenge," claims she had a clause in her recording contract that Warner Music "would fund her education for life." Shante "eventually cashed in, earning a Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell to the tune of $217,000 - all covered by the label."

The rapper had to fight Warner Brothers to foot the bill, so she convinced Marymount Manhattan College's dean to let her attend classes for free while battling Warners. Shante said she submitted all her bills to the record company, "who finally agreed to honor the contract when Shante threatened to go public with the story." Shante says she earned her doctorate in 2001.

However, the online version of the article now contains a two-paragraph bizarrely worded correction that is almost comic in its ramifications of questionable journalism and corporate PR bungling. You know when you read this correction below, this has to be the tip of what is probably a whopper of an iceberg. Other than Cornell, almost nobody comes out of this looking good.

Thanks to AllThingsD's Peter Kafka for tweeting a link to this correction.

Correction: It has come to the attention of the Daily News that a number of statements in this article written for the Daily News by a freelance reporter are, or may be, false. Cornell University has told us that Shante did not receive any degree from it under either her birth or stage name. We have confirmed that prior to the article, at least four publications on Cornell's own website reported that Shante had earned a Ph.D. from the university. Those references have now been removed. And in response to an inquiry today, Marymount College stated that Shante attended there for less than one semester.

Numerous e-mail and telephone inquiries by the freelance reporter to Marymount during the preparation of the article to confirm Shante's account were not responded to. Finally, there have been recent media reports that there never was an education clause in Shante's recording contract. When the reporter contacted Warner Brothers Records about the contract before the article, its only response was that it was having difficulty finding someone within the company who could "talk eloquently" about it.

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