Fact Checking (This Time – NPR and Scott Simon’s Weekend Edition)

I am a big believer in fact-checking, particularly in public forums, like Web sites, radio shows, TV shows, newspapers…Heck, even in blogs.

This morning I heard bits and pieces of NPR’s Weekend Edition while I was running errands, and heard a surprising number of errors. So here’s the letter I’ve written to Scott Simon to complain:


Dear Scott,

I’m a big fan of your show, but I was dismayed by the number of errors you made in passing on this morning’s show (7/13/02).

First John F. Kennedy was born in May of 1917, meaning he was 43 when he was nominated for president in July of 1960. Second, he had one child when he was nominated, though Jacqueline Kennedy was pregnant at the time of his nomination and
gave birth to their second child, John Jr., after his election in November 1960. An
almanac or encyclopedia would have helped you out here, or a Web site such as
Encyclopedia Americana:

http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/bios/35pkenn.html

There were similar types of errors during your lead-in to the talk on summer blockbusters. From 1965 to 1975, I’m pretty sure the top moneymaker was The Sound of Music, not Gone with the Wind. (However, I don’t have an almanac from the early ’70s so I can’t confirm this.)

However, where absolutely missed the mark was both you and your guest calling Close Encounters of the Third Kind a summer blockbuster. It was released in November 1977
and was not a summer blockbuster at all (though it mailed a pile of money. Check the Internet Movie Database at http://us.imdb.com).

You and your guest also missed the opportunity to discuss how movie promotion changed in the mid-’70s. There were an enormous number of television commercials for Jaws before Jaws came out – it was the first time I remember ad saturation in advance of a movie. Same thing for both Star Wars and Close Encounters.

I enjoy you and your show, but fact-checking is being increasingly ignored in the media. If you can’t get simple facts right, how can we rely on you for getting the facts right about more complicated stories?

Sincerely,

Laurie D. T. Mann
http://www.dpsinfo.com

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics. http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog