Mistakes Were Made

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By Deborah Howell
Sunday, June 29, 2008

To err is human, and boy, did the humans err at The Post last week.

The Post ran a story last Sunday by John Scheinman about the annual Colonial Turf Cup race at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va. It didn't sound right to reader Susan Robinson of Richmond. She said she was "amazed to see that Summer Doldrums was reported to be the winner . . . That horse did not run on Saturday, June 21, 2008. He did win the race in a previous year. . . . I was at the race on Saturday and I can attest to the fact that that horse did not run on Saturday. . . . However, how could such a mistake have been made?"

Scheinman, who writes about horse racing as a free-lancer, covered the event, as he did last year, but he mistakenly sent in last year's story. No one noticed and it was published. The right story was published Monday with an editor's note blaming a computer error and noting that the incorrect story was from last year's race. The note shouldn't have blamed the computer.

Scheinman said he attached a computer file "from last year's story -- which was still in my laptop -- to the e-mail when I filed. The slugs were nearly identical. I deeply regret what happened and have been embarrassed by it. It was an accident and a mistake."

Several readers were unhappy about a political comment in the middle of Angus Phillips's June 22 sailing column. William Hunter of Bristow, Va., wrote: "This is in regards to [his] column this past Sunday, 'Winds That Made a Journey Anything but a Breeze,' in particular this line: 'As anyone who has lived in the United States the last eight years knows, a rudderless ship is not so good.' "

Hunter wrote: "Can we give it a rest, please? We get it already . . . everyone at The Washington Post hates/loathes/despises/whatever President Bush. Is there a reason this kind of nonsense has to spill over into the Sports section? . . . I don't deny Mr. Phillips's right to write whatever he pleases in his column. . . Please keep partisan politics out of the Sports section."

Right you are, Mr. Hunter. Phillips should have stuck to sailing.

Several readers were upset by a remark that National political reporter Jonathan Weisman made on a washingtonpost.com chat on Monday. Weisman was responding to this question about Sen. Barack Obama:

"Alexandria, Va.: Obama's new ad (which plays a lot in Alexandria) shows pictures of his mother and grandparents, playing up his white family. Until now he's been 'African American'; now suddenly he's a white Midwesterner? During the primary Hillary was criticized for changing her image too many times. Won't Obama be criticized for doing the same thing?"

Weisman's answer: "I haven't heard that criticism, but it is striking -- not a single picture of his father. Now, that really is consistent with his upbringing -- he really did not become immersed in black American culture until he left college and went to Chicago. The great irony is that he is much more white than black, beyond skin color."

Kendall Ridley of Houston and several other readers complained. Ridley wrote: "I'm simply blown away by this display of ignorance. Please let Mr. Weisman know that black culture is the all-encompassing experience of being black; there is not just one kind of black culture, as black America is neither monolithic nor single-minded. If Obama is 'more white,' 'beyond skin color,' I entreat Mr. Weisman to delineate precisely what he means. . . . Is he suggesting there is 'white behavior' and 'black behavior' or 'white thought' and 'black thought'?"

Weisman replied to me: "I was trying to say that chronologically, Obama spent his entire childhood either in the white environment of an elite Hawaii prep school or in Indonesia. But frankly, I'm not defending myself. It was a really stupid, insensitive comment, and I have apologized for it to the people who have e-mailed me."


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