In South Africa’s Sunday Times of 27 Dec 09 the following report appeared under the heading Matter of fact:
Last week in “There are better ways to create jobs”, we published a letter by D McGillycuddy. The original letter referred to Sani Pass as being some 300m above sea level, but during editing this was incorrectly changed to 3 000m. We regret the error.
To: firstname.lastname@example.org on 2009-12-27
Your faces should be red! In today’s “Matter of fact” section you apologise for incorrectly changing the height of the Sani Pass from 300m to 3 000m. But an examination of several web pages reveals that the pass rises to a height of 2 874m.
I challenge you to name just one spot in Lesotho that is as low as 300m in elevation.
I look forward to reading how you manage to apologise for an apology that shows an appalling lack of general knowledge.
The Sunday Times of 10 Jan 2010 came back with this example of idiocy: In a previous correction regarding Sani Pass, we introduced another error by stating that the pass was 300m above sea level. The correction should have referred to hairpin bends along the pass at about 300m above sea level. Sani Pass is itself about 2 874m above sea level. We regret the error.
To: email@example.com on 2010-01-10
Dear Editor of the Sunday Times:
Congratulations! Today’s “Matters of fact” on page 2 has now reached a level of farce seldom attained by a major newspaper. In your apology about a previous apology you talk about hairpin bends “at about 300m above sea level” along the Sani Pass.
But in my letter of December 27 (see below) I wrote: “I challenge you to name just one spot in Lesotho that is as low as 300m in elevation”. You didn’t bother to check, but just rushed into print with another ridiculous apology. If you Google “lowest point in lesotho” you will find several websites telling you that the lowest point in Lesotho is 1 400m above sea level.
You helpfully add that the Sani Pass “is itself about 2 874m above sea level”. It is not “about” 2 874m high: it IS that high; or more correctly, the highest point of the pass is that high.
I can’t wait to get hold of next week’s Sunday Times to see how you handle this one. I sincerely hope you have the guts to try.
PS I’m sending a copy of this correspondence to my friends. I’m sure they will read the Sunday Times with more interest in future.
No response from the paper.
To: Hogarth@sundaytimes.co.za on 2010-01-18
Fw: MORE ERRORS!
As you are a master at puncturing pomposity and exposing idiots, perhaps you could use your influence and inside knowledge to ensure that the correspondence below gets to the editor, or at least somebody senior enough to apply a swift kick to the pants of the person in charge of the “Matter of fact” section of the Sunday Times. This person is clearly proficient in displaying a lack in the general knowledge and common sense departments, and may well be a secret buddy of the one who does not excel at woodwork.
(In case you didn’t notice, the latest “Matter of fact” paragraph did not bother to correct the glaring errors made in previous issues.)
I live in hope etc
(The previous correspondence was forwarded to him or her.)
Email reply from Hogarth on 2010-01-21
RE: MORE ERRORS!
Hogarth has forwarded your message to a less reliable level
In today’s Sunday Times: nothing.