KTVU issues a retraction… kinda

KTVU issues a retraction… kinda

KTVU issues a retraction… kinda

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Jan. 18 2008 8:00 AM

KTVU issues a retraction… kinda

Well, it looks like this is the story that won't die, as much as KTVU wants it to.

That's the San Francisco TV station that caused such an intertube uproar by posting an amazingly inaccurate story claiming an alien signal was found by SETI scientists. They decided to print a retraction, but it sounds an awful lot like a politician wrote it:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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BERKELEY, Calif. -- On Monday, KTVU reported scientists have received an odd signal from space and some readers may have interpreted this as a confirmed extra-terrestrial contact.

Now, you might wonder, why would anyone interpret the article that way?

Because the original article said this:

Across the globe, researchers searching for signs of life in space were abuzz this week with word that a mystery signal had been picked up by a giant radio-telescope in Puerto Rico.

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Now the dilemma is -- how do you answer it?

Yes, how silly of the readers to think this meant that the article was saying an alien signal had been picked up.

Puhhhhleeeeze. KTVU, listen up: your reporter screwed up. He made series of mistakes, including conflating two different stories. Hey, that happens sometimes. We've all screwed up. Of course, there are supposed to be protocols to prevent the article from going live with errors in it. But your editors made a mistake, too, letting the story go up without checking up on it first.

OK, fine. That happens sometimes too. What you should do then is issue a simple retraction and move on.

But not you guys! Nope. You decide that instead of owning up to your mistakes, you should issue a non-retraction that tries to put the blame on the readers.

Wow. That is really low. Shame on you. Seriously. That's shameful behavior for journalists.

Feh.