Those mangoes in the picture? They are Haden mangoes, not Julies as identified in the caption, wrote the reader who once worked as a produce distributor. “Julies do not have fat rounded cheeks nor do they have a reddish colour,” she said.
Mangoes were just one reason readers wrote us last year. There were all sorts of other reasons — to challenge a columnist’s opinion, or to query an editorial decision on a story choice, headline or photo selection. And they wrote to set us straight when Star journalists slipped up.
Associate public editor Brian Bradley and I fielded just over 20,000 contacts with readers last year, double the number from 2020. We published 1,017 corrections and clarifications online and in print to fix factual mistakes, down from 1,765 in 2020.
The mistakes ran the gamut. There was sloppy grammar. “Its” and “it’s” continue to confuse. There were factual mistakes, like misspellings of people’s names, street names and geographic names. All unforced errors — simple facts easy to verify with quick Google searches, but unfortunately the blunders still made it into print.
Over several days in July, we seriously ran afoul of geography. Various articles had Adrienne Clarkson born in Vietnam (Hong Kong), tennis player Roberto Bautista Agut from Italy (Spain) and Alizé Cornet hailing from Germany (France).
We struggled with some Canadian trivia. An op-ed contributor wrote how Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered penicillin. Ouch. It was insulin, of course. “This is basic stuff for any Canadian,” wrote one reader. Hard to argue that.
Another article made Tom Thomson a member of the Group of Seven. He wasn’t, though in fairness it is a common assumption. (Thomson was an influence for the group’s work, but he drowned in 1917 before it formed, according to the McMichael Gallery website.)
A column on the legacy of Looney Tunes had a bit of a fowl-up, naming the Disney character Donald Duck rather than Daffy Duck.
If you want to get Wheels’ readers riled up, run a photo of a ’58 Chevy and call it a ’57. “The ’57 did not have dual headlights, and its tail fin was straight all the way back, without the cut away that can be seen here,” wrote one reader in setting the record straight.
During the year, I wrote about some questionable editorial decisions. We heard from many readers unhappy with the lack of attention given Canadian athletes in the Starweek television guide ahead of the summer Olympics. We got an earful about a front-page design in August highlighting antipathy to those who are not vaccinated. And I wrote about the digital manipulation of photos that was undisclosed to readers.
This “year in corrections” column naturally highlights the shortcomings brought to our attention over the year. But as we embark on another year in the grips of the pandemic, I think it important to also highlight the good journalism produced by the Star newsroom. That was driven home by one reader’s kind email. “Thanks for letting me find an error — gives me a reason to say thank you for the billion times you get everything right,” he wrote.
Last year marked another year of important public service journalism as Star journalists continued to report on the evolution of the pandemic and critically, the welcome roll out of vaccinations. In doing so, they pushed back against a tide of misinformation. The onset of the fast-moving Omicron variant, adding new urgency for booster shots and new restrictions that upset daily life, especially for parents, again underscores the urgent need for accurate and timely information.
The pandemic certainly spurred much of the increase in our own contacts with readers. Unfortunately, there is a nasty, often profane tone to a great many COVID-related messages from people angry about restrictions, doubting the science and making false claims about vaccines. It’s a sad reality that almost every Star journalist writing on the pandemic has been the frequent target of harassment and abuse.
But we heard from many other readers with constructive queries and suggestions that shaped our news coverage and the ever-evolving presentation of COVID data, and highlighted issues for Star reporters to examine as we navigate the pandemic together.
Thanks to all the readers who reached out on this and many other topics. I look forward to our continued conversations.
Reminder: The annual You Be the Editor quiz remains available online, under public editor columns at www.thestar.com