NYT: Get yourself a fact checker

Spot the problem with this sentence:

Britons were proud that Tony Blair speaks very good French, just as Australians are proud that their premier, Kevin Rudd, is fluent in Chinese.

Australia doesn’t have a premier, we have a prime minister. Not to mention that it’s a bit sloppy calling Mandarin “Chinese”. I can let that one slide since that sloppiness is pretty common practice but premier as a synonym for prime minister? That’s just out and out wrong.

How come every time I know anything about a subject the New York Times gets it wrong? I thought it was the paper of record not of egregious errors.


  1. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    I don’t read the NYT. If I did, I would go mad. And not in a good way.


  2. El on #

    Every time I know something about practically anything published in a journalistic venue, they get it wrong. It’s distinctly possible the New York Times might be the best of a bad lot.


  3. Suzanne on #

    My mum lived in the US in the 70s. She read an article in Time magazine about the dismissal (the only Australian news she ever came across in a US publication), that contained a few really obvious errors about the Australian political system, like the one in NYT. She wrote a letter to point out the errors (politely), thinking perhaps they’d note it under ‘Corrections’ in the next issue – but instead she got a letter back saying that ‘for the purposes of the article’ they were satisfied with what they had printed. That’s right: they didn’t care that they had printed false information. I mean, near enough’s good enough, right? It’s not like anyone actually cares.

    And people think journalism ain’t what it used to be . . .

  4. Patrick on #

    It seems a little bit meaner if you read the post title as NYT: Get yourself a FAT checker.

    I don’t know if that means you are calling NYT fat or if you just support heavier than average checkers.

  5. Chris S. on #

    The Canadian Premier has been mentioned more than once. I guess it’s not entirely incorrect: after all, there is a Premier for each province (and each in Canadian by definition), but the top job is still Prime Minister.

    I guess it’s just one of those Commonwealth things.

  6. Gillian on #

    We may not have a Premier, but one of our late Governors-General had a sister in law made a living performing with a singing dog. It is my astonishing fact of the week, and I’m determined to share it with everyone.

  7. David Moles on #

    Premier for PM is a USianism. It’s in the American Heritage Dictionary and everything. The fact that there are other people with different jobs actually called premiers in their home countries, that’s just one of those weird things people get up to in foreign lands that they’re welcome to do so long as they don’t make us think about it.

  8. mu on #

    That they used ‘Chinese’ doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, since it’s the language of the official discourse and the standard learned by both people in and outside of China. I didn’t understand your comment…I’m sorry for intruding and going on and on but ‘I can let that one slide’ struck me as so incredibly condescending… is Mandarin not ‘Chinese’ by now by law and custom? Cantonese or Shanghainese speakers make fun of Beijinger talk all the time (and vise versa) but they’d acknoledge that Mandarin is the standard. If Rudd spoke a less language less known to US readers (and less studied by US students) like Cantonese, the article might have specified, might have not, but in the case that it didn’t a reader could reasonably assume that ‘Chinese’ meant the default, Mandarin. If they knew about the diversity of languages and dialects in China in the first place, that is. It’d be nice if journalists would make the effort to make the distinction clearer, but what can ya do.

  9. Geneviève on #

    Premier (Ministre) is the same as Prime Minister, no? I do not understand your problem. I guess it was kind of a joke from the journalist – since he just evoked Blair speaking French fluently.

  10. Justine on #

    Geneviève: Actually, no, they are not the same. In Australia, as in Canada, the prime minister is the elected head of the country; premier is the title of the elected head of each state. (Or province in Canada.) The journalist was being ignorant.

  11. Marina on #

    I’ve also noticed, on the rare occasions where I know the real story being reported, that the newspapers get all the details wrong. Local newspapers, big city newspapers, makes no difference. Like my grandmother when she was getting on in years — you could usually work out what she was talking about but the details were dodgy. For instance, she’d talk about “that ballet dancer, Randolf Nurasov” when she meant Rudolf Nureyev. It was funny when she did it but dangerously negligent for the media to be so cavalier.

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