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A TV critic's walk of shame

If you want to know if anyone is reading your stories, make sure you insert a mistake about George Washington.

Oh, if only I could claim it was all a ploy by Calendar editors to gauge readership. But when I wrote in Saturday's story about HBO that George Washington stepped down from the presidency after serving only one term, it was just a stupid, blind error, the sort that leaves you smiting your forehead, literally and repeatedly, the moment it is pointed out to you.   

For the six or seven people living in the Los Angeles Basin who did not e-mail to correct me, he served two terms, not one. And my daddy was a history teacher! Ever since the first e-mail hit my box (on Friday afternoon, about two seconds after the story went up on the website), I have been bathed in hot shame. But I want to thank you, well, most of you, for the gentle tone you took -- most clever subject line award goes to: Is a TV Critic Smarter Than a 5th Grader? -- though I certainly deserved all those incredulous exclamation marks as well. And yes, I did go to college. Graduated even.

Also, for the record, we entertainment writers are held just as accountable for flubbed historical references as any other journalist. The correction runs today online and in tomorrow's print edition, and I will try to comfort myself with the knowledge that a good, strong dose of humility is always good for the soul. Especially the soul of a critic.

-- Mary McNamara

Comments () | Archives (9)

You are a class act, Ms. McNamara. This is a good reminder for all of us, and a lesson to start the week.

Ms McNamara: don't feel bad about making an error that will be in cyberspace forever, and billions of people will read it. :) Seriously, a gracious and humerous apology and I appreciate your honesty for so doing. Please maintain your sense of humor!!

Don't be so hard on yourself, Mary. The ultimate fault lies with your editors.
They still have them at the Times, don't they?

You are now the "model" of how to deal with a situation like this. Kudos.
I saw this at Volokh and I agree with the fair comment.

Dear Ms. McNamara:

It's a good thing that the rest of us have never made any errors whatsoever in our own lives. :-) Thanks for your good humor about your human foibles. Keep up the interesting writing and social commentaries.



Ms. McNamara,

Thanks for taking the walk of shame, gracefully and humorously. I also wrote you early Friday evening, so I guess I wasn't the first. But, if you received the first email "about two seconds after the story went up on the website," how come the story wasn't immediately corrected? (I checked over the weekend - it was a slow weekend!)


Wow, taking responsibility for yourself! What a concept in these crazy times. Thank you for the lovely apology. I know some people, including myself, who can really learn from this. I hope this is widely read.

Served two terms? Damn! Looks like I been wrong all these years. Live and learn I guess.

Nicely done. Everyone makes mistakes; not everyone deals with the aftermath this well. You provide a good example for anyone who makes a mistake they wish they could take back.

Now, time to talk to your editors about getting online corrections done faster. Makes mistakes seem less embarrassing, as fewer people see them in the uncorrected state.


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