CNN reports to map error.
October 9, 2001 1:37 AM   Subscribe

CNN reports to map error. I received an e-mail today from CNN in response to the Switzerland has moved thread specifically asking me to post this reply to the thread. Since it has been a while I chose to post to the main page.
posted by vowe (30 comments total)
This should have been: "CNN responds to map error". Sorry.
posted by vowe at 1:43 AM on October 9, 2001

it's good they gave a response, but a simple 'we f*cked up' would have sufficed.
posted by Frasermoo at 2:07 AM on October 9, 2001

a nice response. and interesting as it gives some insights into the hectic world of (online) news media.

thanks for posting this.
posted by HeikoH at 2:12 AM on October 9, 2001

Yes, it was a good, detailed response, which I have to say I found surprising from a medium that hardly every broadcasts corrections.

But ... It's unfortunate that our viewers decided to use email and message boards to track and concentrate on a RARE error in our graphic rather than absorb the full content of our coverage of the events taking place in the world.

... it seems like America's Network is showing a bit of a thin skin. One can absorb its informative coverage AND be amused about the map error at the same time.
posted by diddlegnome at 2:27 AM on October 9, 2001

Taking it a bit seriously, I would have thought. Someone screwed up and it got discussed on MeFi ... so what?

No animals were harmed in the production of that thread ... at least I didn't ... erm ... anyhoo.
posted by walrus at 3:00 AM on October 9, 2001

Vinnie is clearly proud of the job he and his fellows do at CNN, and he wants folks to understand that it is work defined by time constraints, late hours, and lots of pressure. He also wants us to understand that the guy who goofed is somewhat inexperienced, he was rushed, nobody proofed his work, and viewers ought to expect the odd error to come up now and again. Finally, although Vinnie doesn't say it, his language clearly shows that he wants us to understand he was hurt by how much fun MeFiers had with the goof.

I get it. But there is something that Vinnie doesn't get.

When a professional person in any industry makes a mistake, the first, best way to regain some respect is to apologize for the error and express regret. The more forcefully she or he expresses disgust at/takes ownership for the mistake, the more likely it is that those who caught the error will feel sympathy, will forgive and ultimately will forget, which is clearly what Vinnie wants.

Vinnie does not apologize, and the only thing he regrets is that people were quick to find the error. Instead, Vinnie gives us two paragraphs of excuses, which is as good as defending the (truly indefensible) error.

When you get to the end of the note, Vinnie wants you to think, "Yeah, they've got a tough job, and they do their best at it every day. I shouldn't have been so quick to criticize such a simple error."

Quite honestly, though, I found myself wondering, "shouldn't he be checking somebody's map or something?" Instead of a lengthy excuse, a two-line "My (our) bad. We screwed up. Sorry 'bout that, folks." would have been so much better. The absolute last thing you want to do is make excuses.
posted by Bixby23 at 3:10 AM on October 9, 2001

What do you expect from a company like CNN? Nothing but garbage.

Why was this posted on the main page again? Just a waste of space
posted by BlitzK at 3:35 AM on October 9, 2001

What Bixby23 said.
But you gotta love it when he says I tried to start at MetaFiles User Name but was denied due to the number of existing users ;-)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:37 AM on October 9, 2001

Oops, Vinny: it's MetaFilter, not MetaFiles. There you go again...
Ease up on that Czech cheese, buddy!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 3:40 AM on October 9, 2001

BlitzK, you're new, so maybe you could take this to heart: We're not Free Republic, OK? Tone down the rhetoric.

Which leads me to contemplate that a simple map error is nothing compared to the criticism CNN gets in certain other quarters; hell, some guy spent half the night trying to convince a newsgroup that CNN's airing of the bin Laden video was tantamount to treason. In the face of that, this is nuttin'.
posted by dhartung at 3:56 AM on October 9, 2001

This would have gone over really, really well if they had excised this part -

"It's unfortunate that our viewers decided to use email and message boards to track and concentrate on a RARE error in our graphic rather than absorb the full content of our coverage of the events taking place in the world."

On the other hand, it's encouraging that there was at least some response. It didn't need to be so defensive. Putting myself in their position, perhaps they had just had a really long, bad day (given the context of things, I would say that's a given) and dealt with a lot of over-hyped complaints...

Or something.
posted by lucien at 4:39 AM on October 9, 2001

They screwed up. They got caught. Take responsibility without hiding behind excuses and move on. What's so difficult about that?
posted by cyniczny at 4:40 AM on October 9, 2001

my favorite part:

Also, thanks to "monkey-mind" for coming to our defense.

How long before they start crediting people's nicks on air?
posted by mutagen at 5:21 AM on October 9, 2001

I'm impressed that someone from CNN cares and sees the need to respond to Mefi. A feather in the cap of Metafilter.

You people who are getting on CNN's case should grow up. And stop getting such a big thrill out of someone's little, on-the-fly mistake. CNN is always on, and little errors go with the territory. Also, in terms of the language of the e-mail, remember that that guy has to look legit for his boss at CNN.

(also, I always wonder if many people in Big Media read Mefi.)
posted by ParisParamus at 5:22 AM on October 9, 2001

Vinnie commented again at my site. Here's his text:

To the MetaFilter bunch: Although it's really not my position to apologize for something that wasn't exactly my fault, I'd like to say I'm sorry on behalf of CNN and my department for the error that was broadcast last month. We DID f*uck up! If it offended those residents of Switzerland or the Czech Republic, then I am even more regretful of our mistake. Bixby23 summarized my point very clearly by reminding us all that it was a very simple error, but it really shouldn't have caused such an uproar. It just so happens that my co-worker's mistake happened to be broadcast to millions of people across the world.
On a lighter note, sorry for seeming so defensive in my earlier response. Sometimes once I get going, the fingers just keep typing. I do realize that most of what was said on MetaFilter was just fooling around. And I certainly cannot be held as an accurate representative of the rest of the CNN workforce--not everyone here has such thin skin like me. But we DO screw up once in a while. Big deal, right? We just don't like these things to happen since we have such a big audience. It gets a little busy around here as you can imagine but that's no excuse for a mistake. I just heard about how someone here mis-labeled a map so I did a little Google search on my own time and found this bulletin board. I had no idea that so many people would have all these opinions. But I'm happy that people are still watching the network--mistakes and all.
Take care everyone, and we'll try to keep the mess-ups to a minimum.
posted by vowe at 5:32 AM on October 9, 2001

Hey, I'm still laughing about "I tried to start at MetaFiles User Name but was denied due to the number of existing users".

I cannot stop laughing.

Someone, slap me.
posted by Outlawyr at 5:45 AM on October 9, 2001

ah ya see. behind every corporate response sits a normal fallible human being.

nice one vinnie.

ParisParamus. Don't get so upset about us getting on CNN's case. They is big boys and we is da small fish that like to have a pop every now and then (when possible). It makes our small insignificant hungover lives seem worthwhile.
posted by Frasermoo at 6:04 AM on October 9, 2001

Maybe it's just me, but this didn't sound to me like an official CNN comment on the mistake. It sounded like one guy from CNN who also reads MeFi trying to stand up for himself and his co-workers. Which is fine, but it's not a proper reaction from the corporation itself.
posted by dnash at 6:53 AM on October 9, 2001

it's not a proper reaction from the corporation itself.

You know, it's not like CNN actually moved the two countries...
posted by ParisParamus at 6:58 AM on October 9, 2001

You're all being very silly for knocking on CNN.

I don't think CNN should apologize, as there's nothing to apologize for. They acknowledged the mistake, but they know that it's impossible to be 100% sure that this doesn't happen again in the future. Asking them to apologize is akin to asking a writer to apologize for a typo.

There are two types of mistakes that come up in the media: 1) germane information is misrepresented; 2) immaterial information is screwed up. Don't treat the two equally.
posted by Witold at 8:20 AM on October 9, 2001

Which is fine, but it's not a proper reaction from the corporation itself.

It can also get him in trouble w/ his boss. Hope they don't find out.
posted by jennak at 9:16 AM on October 9, 2001

Silly mapping errors aside, the accuracy of reporting on the 9/11 attacks and follow-up investigations has been poor, to say the least.

Most of America relies directly on the news media to tell us what is going on. The number of "unconfirmed reports" that later turned out to be faulty simply incited more anxiety than necessary.

Frankly, I tire of the news media. I tire of reporters shoving their microphones into the faces of grieving families and asking them how they feel. I tire of the relentless coverage of "Ground Zero" that is used as filler material when there is nothing new to report. I tire of the parade of retired and former commentary people in their stiff suits trying to guess what is going on. Most of all, I tire of the news media's inability to distinguish sensitive information from regular information, endangering the lives of our uniformed combatants doing their best to defend our country.

Right now one of the news channels is reporting that we have dropped food aid into a landmine area. NO, REALLY?! Considering that MOST of the country is peppered in land mines, I would say that it would be difficult to drop food in ALL safe locations for retrieval. I would like to see one of these reporters pop on an oxygen mask in a depressurized aid plane and kick food packages out of the back in freezing temperatures. Maybe they can do better at picking out where the land mines are.. Nevermind, they can't even figure out where Czechoslavakia is.
posted by xyzzy at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2001

Wanna roll me some tape of reporters sticking microphones in grieving people's faces and saying, "How do you feel?"
I'm sure you can -- and chances are it'll be from a movie or other fictional program.
You're complaining about how reporters are portrayed fictionally.
Please ground yourself in reality.
It's rare for reporters in real life to act as coarsely as you say they do. Sometimes we have to interview grieving people, and most of the time we handle it sensitively. You might be surprised at how often grieving people want to talk to reporters. It makes them feel better, believe it or not. I'm always astonished by how willing people are to talk about their dead loved ones. But it's not easy to ask those questions.
Also, why do you take reporters to task for reporting that food was dropped in an area with land mines? You seem to think that reporting this is tantamount to complaining about it and saying, "I could do better." I just don't understand where you're coming from. We shouldn't report that food shipments were dropped on mined areas because we couldn't do any better? By that logic, we shouldn't write about what Kurt Warner does because no reporter could play as well.
You spelled Czechoslovakia wrong. Also, Czechoslovakia no longer exists. And you're complaining about the media?
posted by Holden at 11:09 AM on October 9, 2001

Holden: ahah, that was sort of my point (about Czechoslovakia, that is)

If I taped the news (some people do, for posterity) I could indeed find coverage of reporters acting insensitively to any number of individuals. My FAVORITE is when they ask people to comment on some horrific event (losing a family member, watching the WTC collapse, etc) and then cutting them off because of some time limit and saying "back to you Bob." Some people love to be on tv - no problems with that here. I think the mourning phase needs to be covered. I just wish it looked less exploitive.

I notice that you don't comment on the more serious problems I have with the media, such as reporting classified information gleaned from loose-lipped "senior officials" or inaccurate reporting that is rarely admitted or corrected. Yesterday almost every single reporter stated that there are TWO people who had anthrax in Florida when this is patently false. One person had it and died, the second person was EXPOSED to it. No matter HOW MANY TIMES they were corrected, reporters continued to state that this second person in Florida HAS anthrax. Now this person may still get anthrax, but that doesn't change the fact that as of yesterday, he had NOT been diagnosed with anthrax. See my point?

Anyway Holden, I gather that you are a reporter. I admire the work reporters do, going into war-torn countries, risking their own lives to get the news out in many cases. But my observations are indeed "grounded in reality" as I see it, and I reserve my right to criticize the media just as you reserve your right to attempt to invalidate my entire view based on a misspelling of Czechoslovakia.
posted by xyzzy at 11:39 AM on October 9, 2001

Wow. That's kind of cool. What a neat networked world we live in.

Glad the guy wrote.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:40 AM on October 9, 2001

how many people would never notice if they shuffled countries around on the map every day?
posted by th3ph17 at 11:51 AM on October 9, 2001

Sorry, Xyzzy, I think you're wrong about the sensitivity issue. We see what we want to see. I still think you're confusing fictional representations with reality.
Were you aware that 17 news organizations knew on Friday that we would bomb Afghanistan on Sunday night (Afghan time)? I assume not. So I don't know what reporting of classified information you're talking about. If indeed that has happened, perhaps it's the fault of those loose-lipped senior officials.
Yes, I get sick and tired of TV reporters who keep gettiing facts wrong. Like you, I don't like it when the networks bring aboard stuff shirts to speculate about what will happen next. That's why I'm glad that Fox and CBS aired football games Sunday.
But, you know, you're the one who criticizes busy people for mislabeling maps on deadline and for not distinguishing between infection and exposure, yet then you figuratively roll your eyes at me for pointing out that you misspelled Czechoslovakia and that the country no longer exists. You're tying yourself in knots, saying that other people need to be accurate but you don't.
posted by Holden at 11:58 AM on October 9, 2001

Holden, I am not a reporter on television being broadcast to millions of American homes. My accuracy, while important, is not as crucial to the argument. Anyhow, yes, you can assign the blame to the Congressmen who leaked the information, but it would seem to me that common sense should prevail when reporting on intelligence briefing sessions. Just my opinion.
posted by xyzzy at 5:10 PM on October 9, 2001

Kudos to Vinny! In the big scheme of life, physical orientation of countries on an iconic map is not very important. I'd rather they get the graphics "close enough" and spend more resources on getting the stories completely right.

They are probably already spending too much time and resources making those graphics look nice and pretty for a few seconds on a screen in the background.

Geography is trivia. We have more important facts to worry about. Worry about the the people who live within borders as opposed to the minutiae of the borders themselves. Schools should stop teaching state capitals and start teaching about social reality.

Get a life and you won't have to be a jerk who spends tons of time picking apart other people's mistakes to make himself feel better. Shut up and be productive. Learn something new, please..
posted by hitsman at 10:34 PM on October 9, 2001

skallas: Did you read the thread or the metalk thread?

Yeah I did as it goes, but people will always overhype: it's the nature of the medium. Not worth taking too seriously, IMO.

Maybe I'll change my tune when one of my mistakes is hung up here for public ridicule, but I honestly think I'd be more likely to find it all rather amusing.
posted by walrus at 2:56 AM on October 10, 2001

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