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A 1991 error becomes a 2011 error

February 2, 2011 |  4:38 pm


A For the Record item in Wednesday’s print edition noted the publication of an incorrect photo with the obituary of Oscar-winning composer John Barry.

John-barry The photo, which ran on the cover of Tuesday's LATExtra section, was actually of film editor Neil Travis. A second photo -- this one correctly showing Barry -- ran on the obituary’s jump page.

Several readers who knew Barry or who were influenced by his work contacted The Times to point out the mistake.

"I'm stunned that in the film capital of the world, our own newspaper can't even get the photo of one of the most influential film composers of the past 40 years right," wrote Don Redfeld of Sherman Oaks, a composer and conductor.

How did this happen?

Cary Schneider, who oversees The Times' library, did some investigating.

The photo now known to be of Travis was first published in The Times on March 26, 1991, in a full page of photos from the Academy Awards; part of the page is shown above. The winners pictured were all associated with "Dances With Wolves," which had won seven Oscars. Travis won for film editing, and Barry won for composing the movie's score. A single caption accompanied the photos and identified the one of Travis as being of John Barry. (The next photo on the page is identified as being of Neil Travis, so it's possible that the two were reversed.)

"The individual hard copy print was then filed, and it has a typed label on the back identifying the photographer by name and the person in the photo as John Barry," Schneider said. "We even glued a copy of the actual printed photo caption to the back of the photo, with the misleading information, as well."

It's hard to imagine that no one at the time pointed out the error. However, no correction was ever published in The Times, which meant that the photo had sat in the file since 1991 with the wrong name attached to it.

Twenty years later, the photo was published again, unfortunately with  the incorrect name. But this time the error has been corrected.

"Just goes to prove, clearly, the importance of our 'For the Records,' " Schneider said.

That importance is not only in providing transparency for readers now but in ensuring accuracy in the future too.

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photos: Part of the Los Angeles Times page from March 26, 1991, with the photo incorrectly labeled John Barry at bottom center. Color photo of John Barry. Credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images