Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Retraction posted Nov 14, 2013
November 15, 2013 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Better late than never? In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.
posted by COD (39 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
In this case, yes, better late! The editors seem to see themselves as part of a continuous, historical project. In a media environment where we have tons of outlets of varying levels of integrity, it's nice to see a newspaper say "hey, it's part of our ethics to correct the record and this is a topic important to us, we won't let the record on it stand uncorrected."

The correction functions as a statement beyond its context- "we value the record produced by our institution, to us it matters." I think that's important.
posted by ProtoStar at 12:14 PM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I realize that oratory, as well as editorial writing, was different back at the time, but I'm having trouble parsing what the original editorial's issue with the speech was. Doesn't it sound a bit like "we don't like him, so whatever it was he said sux0rs."
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:14 PM on November 15, 2013


We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.

That has to go down as one of the worst predictions ever.
posted by gkhan at 12:16 PM on November 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I was reading the original article and was thinking, I wonder what they were so upset about. Then I hit the line " which have drenched our land in gore, to upset the Constitution, emancipate the negro and bind the white man in the chains of despotism." and it all made sense.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:18 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hey, I just found a time machine and I'm travelling back in time, not to save Lincoln or even correct the Patriot and Union editors for their error, but instead to warn the world: don't read the comments in the above link.

"How can there be 149 comments on such an innocent story?" a more innocent version of myself thought. "How can there be anything to argue with here?"

Hopefully your soul can be saved by avoiding any attempt to find the answer to that question.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:19 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


where we have tons of outlets of varying levels of integrity

When I pulled up the article, there were ads on the side which included a sexy lady smoking an e-cigarette and something about steroids that has been exposed. So.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:19 PM on November 15, 2013


My son the history major explained last night that the paper was Democratic leaning back in the day, so it very much was mostly an issue with the speaker.
posted by COD at 12:20 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


In a way, they were just taking him at face value when he said - "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here..."

When I was in eighth grade, every single kid in my history class had to deliver the speech verbatim from memory. It strikes me how wrong both the Patriot & Union and Lincoln himself were - literally the speech is the most iconic political speech in American thought.
posted by graymouser at 12:21 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


In further news, rockets work in space no matter what the New York Times says.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:23 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


bottlebrushtree: ah, thanks. I got it now.
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:23 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, I just found a time machine and I'm travelling back in time, not to save Lincoln or even correct the Patriot and Union editors for their error, but instead to warn the world: don't read the comments in the above link.

NoScript really is a wonderful tool.
posted by atbash at 12:25 PM on November 15, 2013


Four score and seven years ago is just fancy-schmancy talk for eighty-seven years ago. Obviously this president is not a man the average Josiah Lunch Pail would want to have a beer with.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:31 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


OK, fair enough - for whatever reason (editoral stance, politics, etc) at the time the paper did not like the speech.


But why retract that now? Why not take a stance of yes, now, we recognize the significance and impact of the speech, but on that day and at the time, this is what was said. It's important to note that there was opposition and dislike for Lincoln at that time, and so whatever motivated it, this editorial is a reflection of that moment in history and what Lincoln's opponents were saying and thinking about this speech and him, and it should be viewed in that historical context as opposed to apologizing for it now.

It is a memorable speech and an important one in history, but at that moment, no one knew that it would be - so let's have a record of what the at the moment reactions were.
posted by nubs at 12:38 PM on November 15, 2013


I knew it! He's one of those self-taught Illinois elitists you hear so much about in the Farmer's Almanac.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:38 PM on November 15, 2013


MCMikeNamara: " "How can there be 149 comments on such an innocent story?" a more innocent version of myself thought. "How can there be anything to argue with here?""

Newspaper comment sections are yet another reminder that people can be stunningly, astoundingly, breathtakingly stupid.
posted by zarq at 12:42 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


...and bind the white man in the chains of despotism.

I HAVE A DREAM.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:45 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


But why retract that now?

Getting to choose your side 148 years after the war is over is a sure way to be a winner.
posted by Repack Rider at 12:52 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously this president is not a man the average Josiah Lunch Pail would want to have a beer with.

Ooh, look at Mister Has A Pail Just For His Lunch over here.
posted by Etrigan at 12:54 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Adding to the last point, the parties have switched sides during the interval since that speech was made. Current Southern Republicans were Democrats 100 years ago. A Republican in 1863 was more like a Democrat today. 150 years after a REPUBLICAN freed the slaves, the current version of the party is still trying to put that genie back into the bottle.

That's why it sounds just like a right-wing editorial published this week about the Current Occupant.
posted by Repack Rider at 12:58 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ooh, look at Mister Has A Pail Just For His Lunch over here.

CARHOLE.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:59 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That 1863 editorial has long been famous in Central PA where, like graymouser, I too had to memorize the Gettysburg Address – although I think it was a few grades earlier than eighth. In those days I actually worked for the Patriot-News – not wanting to get up early enough to deliver the morning Patriot, after school I delivered the Evening News in the suburbs.

After 81 years the Evening News died in 1996, and was merged with the Patriot. This year, after 159 years, the Patriot shifted to a three times a week schedule, and a thin edition comes out only on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Like many U.S. newspapers – no matter what its editorials say – it’s become less and less relevant as time passes.

p.s. In addition to “We pass over the silly remarks of the President,” the most famous Harrisburg quotes are Charles Dickens in his American Notes: “At length, however, we emerged upon the streets of Harrisburg, whose feeble lights, reflected dismally from the wet ground, did not shine out upon a very cheerful city.” and Jack Kerouac in On the Road: “I stumbled out of town with barely enough strength to reach the city limits. I knew I’d be arrested if I spent another night in Harrisburg. Cursed city!”
posted by LeLiLo at 1:14 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mr. Everett failed as an orator, because the occasion was a mockery, and he knew it, and the President succeeded, because he acted naturally, without sense and without constraint, in a panorama which was gotten up more for his benefit and the benefit of his party than for the glory of the nation and the honor of the dead.

Yeah, yeah, typical Republican echo chamber crap... wait...
posted by Naberius at 1:33 PM on November 15, 2013


Fair enough, but what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? These kinds of apologies can make some sort of sense when they're being given by heads of state, but this newspaper is just a newspaper. It's the opposite of punching down. It's hugging upwards. I doubt that one person in a million could have told you that this newspaper had had any particular opinion of the the Gettysburg Address, let alone a negative one, and yet here we are. The American people have had no problem developing their own collective opinion of the Gettysburg Address, and this retraction will do nothing to change that.

"It is always easier to be moral about what other people have done in the past, than to be moral about what one has oneself to do in the present."
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:25 PM on November 15, 2013


Charles Dickens in his American Notes: “At length, however, we emerged upon the streets of Harrisburg, whose feeble lights, reflected dismally from the wet ground, did not shine out upon a very cheerful city.”

I wouldn't take that personally. If I recall correctly, outside of Boston, Dickens more or less hated every town he visited on his American tour. It was pretty much all "Hurf, durf, nice scenery, swamp-dwellers! You call those trees?? I see your mayor wears dungarees and earns his bread by farming swine. How quaint!"
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:39 PM on November 15, 2013


It is a memorable speech and an important one in history, but at that moment, no one knew that it would be - so let's have a record of what the at the moment reactions were.

How does the original response not still stand as "a record of what the at the moment reactions were"? They haven't burned their archives or anything, have they?
posted by yoink at 2:45 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Dickens dissed Pittsburgh too during that same tour:
“Pittsburg is like Birmingham in England; at least its townspeople say so. Setting aside the streets, the shops, the houses, wagons, factories, public buildings and population, perhaps it may be.”
posted by octothorpe at 2:51 PM on November 15, 2013


Might as well post this here, not worth its own post but gave me plenty of chuckles already: Ken Burns: Console War.
posted by kmz at 2:52 PM on November 15, 2013


Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time...

Apparently the college newspaper I worked on was a throwback...
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:03 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That has to go down as one of the worst predictions ever.

He was only repeating what he heard: "The world will little note, nor long remember" etc etc

Actually, I thought the editorial was pretty interesting as a contemporary reflection of healthy contempt for politicians and talking heads. Remember, the occasion was more or less a mass funeral for young men killed before their time. Harrisburg, PA? I have to assume the leader writer knew people among the dead. I'd probably be pretty annoyed at the intrusion myself.

(As to the address itself, I suspect that it would be less revered if it weren't short enough to be memorized even by the dullest of school children. Lot of muddled rhetorical nonsense in the thing - forefathers conceiving in Liberty? WTH?)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:31 PM on November 15, 2013


No one who was made to memorize the addess would use the common misquote "forefathers." You had to drill it out of yourself. Our fathers brought forth a new nation.
posted by graymouser at 4:46 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dickens dissed Pittsburgh

Though saying it's not at all like Birmingham is not exactly an insult...
posted by Segundus at 12:12 AM on November 16, 2013


>Touché! Though, NB, I never said I was made to memorize it. And I still contend it's a muddled nonsense.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:01 AM on November 16, 2013


Segundus: "Dickens dissed Pittsburgh

Though saying it's not at all like Birmingham is not exactly an insult...
"

Birmingham and Manchester were huge urban role models in the US during the industrial revolution. It's not an accident that two of the bigger industrial neighborhoods in Pittsburgh are named after those UK cities or that there are similarly named cites scattered all over the US.
posted by octothorpe at 9:36 AM on November 16, 2013


"How can there be 149 comments on such an innocent story?" a more innocent version of myself thought. "How can there be anything to argue with here?"

Hopefully your soul can be saved by avoiding any attempt to find the answer to that question.


The Harrisburg Patriot-News was my hometown paper. I used to deliver it as a paperboy. It's actually a good paper as far as it goes, having just won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for breaking the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

However, I must also add that MCMikeMcNamara does not lie. Whatever you do, do not look at the comments! Even though Pennsylvania was a Union state, there are a lot of rednecks and unreconstructed racists where I grew up who believe that the wrong side won the Civil War. The Harrisburg suburbs are called the West Shore, because they're on the west shore of the Susquehanna River, but for many years, the West Shore was very, very racially segregated and it was locally nicknamed "the White Shore."
posted by jonp72 at 11:21 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even though Pennsylvania was a Union state, there are a lot of rednecks and unreconstructed racists where I grew up who believe that the wrong side won the Civil War.

Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, Alabama in the middle.

also see Pennsyltucky.

There are many other such appellations. Most of them are correct.
posted by Etrigan at 1:54 PM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


people still call it The White Shore.

and with the economic mess our city is in, people are moving out and no one is buying homes because the taxes are already insane. and who knows what will happen? heck, we're so screwed up we've had multiple Planet Money episodes. but at least those helped me understand what's going on.

anyways, it is really sad about the Patriot News disappearing. i can't imagine having to constantly come up with some way to drive readership and come up with ideas like this one.

no one is buying more papers because of this. i feel bad and every so often get a copy and then remember why i never read it. it's like reading an airline magazine, filled with AP content.

it's unfortunate that the Sandusky stuff was the most compelling reporting they'd had in years. i wish they could really get into the fracking issue but i think it's actually more contentious than reporting that a beloved football coach is a pedophile and the associated coverup that was probably going on for years.
posted by sio42 at 12:51 PM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


But why retract that now?

Addressed in this related article, which addresses a similar question from a writer from iMediaEthics, who, like some people in this thread, seem to treat this "retraction" the same as a retraction of a factual error reported a few days before.
I hope you are taking our 'retraction' in the spirit we intended, which was to have a little fun with a less-than-stellar chapter of our newspaper's history...

Really, this isn't a question of journalism ethics, as would be the case with a serious retraction - it was more a way of using the 150th anniversary to say, with a wink, "Gee, can you believe what rock heads ran this outfit 150 years ago?"
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:39 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The bit on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update this weekend about this with Jebediah Atkinson, the (fictional) speech critic from 1863 made me giggle quite a bit; if you're in a place where Hulu is accessible, it is here and it is ridiculous.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:28 PM on November 18, 2013


Was the Gettysburg Address a Mistake? Lincoln was far too kind to the South. And we still are.
posted by homunculus at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2013


« Older Apparently we've been eating apples incorrectly....   |   The Fall of the House of Moon... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments