Washington and his presidenc(ies)
Dozens of readers have taken issue with this line in a review of HBO's "John Adams" that appeared Saturday in Calendar:
George Washington ... so quickly tired of the infighting among his Cabinet and vagaries of public opinion that he stepped down from the presidency after a single term.
He served two terms, readers pointed out.
A correction is due to be published in the print edition tomorrow (one should be appearing on the online story today). The writer, Mary McNamara, responds to readers on Show Tracker. (Her mea culpa is also pasted in below.)
A TV critic's walk of shame
08:55 AM PT, Apr 21 2008
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Also, for the record, we entertainment writers are held just as accountable for flubbed historical references as any other journalist.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