Media Blog reader Joseph emails in:
This may be the longest and most complicated correction in the history of journalism
I think he’s right. From the Las Vegas Sun:
Correction (March 4, 2008): The following story had several reporting and editing problems as well as some factual errors. The premise of the story was that even affluent and normally peaceful Summerlin, where a Palo Verde High School student was shot to death by another youth while walking home from school, was not immune from the crime that occurs in other parts of the Las Vegas Valley.
The story quoted two of many racist-tinged comments from a Web site to support the thesis that some people in Summerlin held racist views. (The victim, who lived in Summerlin and did not know his assailant, was white; the alleged shooter, who did not live in Summerlin, was black.) The problem was that the quotes were anonymous and, because of the way the Web works, could have come from anywhere in the world. Although some people in Summerlin may hold racist views, these quotes, because of the lack of identity of the writers, in no way proved that possibility.
It is the Sun’s policy not to run anonymous letters to the editor and in the future the Sun will not run anonymous comments from Web sites.
In another place in the story the Sun called the 311 Boyz, whose crimes were in the news several years ago, a Summerlin gang. The 311 Boyz were a group of white teenagers from mostly well-off families who came together through attendance at Centennial High School, which is not in Summerlin. They committed a notorious assault at a party at a house in Summerlin, but their activities ranged around the northwest part of the metropolitan area. They were not a Summerlin gang.
The story also stated that none of the 311 Boyz was sentenced to jail. In fact, four of them were sentenced to jail and a fifth alleged member of the gang also was sentenced to jail after he violated his probation.
Finally, in an effort to show that crime around Palo Verde High School was as high as crime elsewhere, the story attempted to compare crime statistics within one mile of Palo Verde High School with crime statistics within one mile of Durango High School, which is near Russell Road and Rainbow Boulevard. Several things were wrong here.
First, the story mistakenly used “incident reports” as crime statistics. Incident reports are a listing of the calls police respond to. Some turn out to be crimes and some do not. By calling all the incidents crimes, the Sun reported the number of crimes around the two schools to be much higher than they were. And the story wrongly counted traffic accidents among the incidents.
Furthermore, it was inaccurate to compare the mile around Palo Verde High School, which is a very developed area, to the mile around Durango High School, which is still largely undeveloped. Had the story taken into account the levels of development around the two schools it would have been clear that there were comparatively far more incidents around Durango.
All these errors tended to give the following story an anti-Summerlin tone, which was not intended and which the Sun regrets.
Here’s the original article and the correction.