As Understandably has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year, it’s time to include a clear policy for standards and ethics. We’ll be publishing those soon in greater detail, but the short version includes these points:
First, where Understandably covers anything that might create the appearance of a conflict of interest, we’ll disclose it in the article. This comes up very rarely so far, but it’s a good policy in place proactively.
Second, we only publish content that we have the legal right to publish, meaning either that we own the copyright, or that contributors writing for us own the copyright, and they’ve licensed it to us.
Third, where we make mistakes we’ll own up to them.
On that last point, check this out: We’re doing something I don’t think any other media brand does. We won’t just run corrections; we’ll keep a running list of all the things we’ve ever had to correct.
We call this Mistakes Were Made, sort of an homage to the late William Safire, who did a heavyweight deconstruction of that phrase.
If you’re a longtime reader who remembers another mistake that we haven’t listed below, or if you find one in the future, send it to the founding editor of Understandably, Bill Murphy Jr., at email@example.com.
(Update: I’m not going to include every single typo, even though I’ve done that in the past. Now that we’ve been able to add premium memberships and hire some people to proofread, there are fewer of them, anyway. But factual missteps, unintentional errors that would affect the course of the story, etc.—those are all fair game.)
Here’s the list so far:
August 2, 2022: I was exhausted when I wrote this, but: 2022 minus 2009 is 13 years, not 12; also, Brian Acton’s net worth became $2.8 billion, not $2.8 million.
March 11, 2022: I linked to an article from the New York Times that said the U.S. Census Bureau undercounted the population by an estimated 18.8 million people, especially missing Black, Latino, and Indigenous residents. Later, the NYT corrected its reporting, saying that the 18.8 million were misclassified, but not “missed” as the earlier version implied.
January 11, 2022: Different kind of mistake, but let’s just say it’s not a good idea to send an email to 128,000 people with the subject line, “I didn’t sign up for this,” given that many reply to the email each day. Thus, I inadvertently suggested to the email algorithm that hundreds of people were complaining that they did not sign up for the newsletter. Whoops, live and learn.
January 10, 2022: I got caught up in the mix over whether Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch said, “hundreds of thousands” or “hundreds, thousands” when referring to annual flu deaths. The story I linked to was changed AFTER I linked to it, but I think I should have investigated more before citing as if it were verified.
October 14, 2021: Scary-looking robot dog with a sniper rifle was the work of S.W.O.R.D. International and Ghost Robotics, not Boston Dynamics.
October 7, 2021: This one is kind of meta, but a reader pointed out that I’d written, “we only publish content that which we have the legal right to publish,” which has an extra word in it. I don’t usually track mistakes to that level, but since it’s literally on this page, I thought let’s highlight it.
July 20, 2021: What was I thinking? Teri Benaron, not Bannon.
July 19, 2021: Black Rifle Coffee Co. is based in Utah, not Texas.
June 17, 2021: Did Cristiano Ronaldo “angrily” push two bottles of Coca-Cola away at a press conference? I could have sworn I read the word “angrily” in the article I used as a source for this. But, it’s gone now, and it might be more accurate to say “abruptly.” So I fixed it.
June 9, 2021: I linked to a story about a woman who saved her twin sister from a crocodile. The attack happened in Mexico, but I accidentally wrote that it happened in Georgia. (The woman’s first name was Georgia.)
June 3, 2021: Forty-two years ago, not 41.
May 4, 2021: Emailed and talked all day with Bruce Wigo about this story, then messed up in the newsletter and spelled his name “Wygo.” Fixed now.
April 14, 2021: Learned that contrary to what I wrote, water fountains are not only called “bubblers” in my home state of Rhode Island, but also in other parts of New England, and Wisconsin.
April 12, 2021: Typo: The ship that got caught in the Suez Canal is the Ever Given, not the Ever Giving.
April 5, 2021: A small, common mistake, but worth noting: “shoo-in,” not “shoe-in.”
April 1, 2021: We wrote incorrectly that if you collected unemployment in 2020 and you’ve already filed your taxes, you’ll need to file an amended return to take advantage of a new tax break. Turns out, the IRS says that’s not necessary, and that it will automatically recalculate returns. We were one of many outlets that got this wrong, based on some old guidance, but the final result was that we shared a mistake. Thanks to the dozen or so readers who pointed this out. (WSJ)
March 29, 2021: Repeated story about Geraldine Hoff Doyle being the inspiration for “Rosie the Riveter;” reader pointed out later research suggesting another worker, Naomi Parker-Fraley, was the true model.
March 9, 2021: Referred to Angela Lee Duckworth as “Amy Duckworth.” Maybe I was thinking of Senator Tammy Duckworth? Corrected.
February 10, 2021: Talked about “suburban dads” buying snowblowers. This wasn’t technically incorrect, but a reader politely pointed out that “suburban moms” do this too. Worth fixing.
January 18, 2021: Meant “public.” Because of embarrassing typo that autocorrect won’t catch, wrote “pubic.”
January 9, 2021: The Washington Monument is 555 feet 5 inches tall, not 554 feet as I wrote Saturday. Supposedly it’s just because the building is 10 times taller than its base is wide… but as a reader who pointed out the error mentioned, you have to wonder if there’s some other numerological or superstitious reasoning.
November 12, 2020: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a search for a stem cell donor to help save a baby’s life, not the baby’s “wife,” which was a typo but obviously made no sense. Thanks to the 30 or so readers who emailed to let us know!
January 28, 2020: John Altobelli, who perished with his wife and daughter, Keri and Alyssa, in the helicopter crash that took the lives of Kobe Bryant and five other people, had been the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College. I wrote incorrectly that he coached basketball.
January 24, 2020: Reported that “The CEO of Goldman Sachs says his firm won’t underwrite IPOs for companies that don’t have at least one “diverse board member” (with the focus mainly being on including women.)” We forgot the word “don’t,” so it had basically the 180-degree opposite connotation.
And of course, please share Understandably! Can you think of someone who might be drinking his or her coffee right now without it? Thanks in advance!
You are too funny and I personally forgive you. Hard to be human.
And as for auto correct:
Many years ago I texted from a hospitol my husband was having a Splenectomy and it autocorrected to Penectomy.... you can just imagine the texts I got back. Haha, enjoy your day
I love reading your newsletter each day and have noticed some of these mistakes. I also know that I make plenty and that having them pointed out hurts. Proofing your own work has got to be difficult as I’m sure you are like most and read what you “meant” to say not what is there. Keep writing a great daily paper and know that you are trusted.