The Facts Escape Them

Vincent Musetto, who wrote the classic NY Post headline Headless Body in Topless Bar, died this week. You should read this fascinating story about how the Post fact-checked the topless part of the tale, and ended up printing the most famous headline ever.

headline

But speaking of headlines and fact checking, let’s talk about Dannemora.

I’ve been deeply fascinated by the recent prison break and read everything I could get my hands on, like the Times Union’s front page story today with this headline:

Fugitives end 150-Year era — Residents worked “The Job” with no escapes — until now.

They interviewed John Egan, who used to run OGS and once worked in the prison. An excerpt:

Egan was “flabbergasted” by last weekend’s breakout, the first such incident in the prison’s 150-year history.

Egan went on to say, “That record of no breakouts stood for 150-years. It spoke for itself.” Well, that’s quite a record — except it seems that Egan may be a little confused on top of being flabbergasted.

The New York Times ran a story this week saying that the prison has a long and colorful history of “breakouts,” including two that involved escaping through tunnels and pipes. Then, just minutes ago, I heard a similar story on NPR about the “two dozen” escapes from the prison.

It could be that the New York Times and NPR are completely wrong about this Dannemora thing. After all, the TU story was written by the paper’s star reporter, Paul Grondahl, with help from one Keshia Clukey.

So why does it matter? I guess because if you can’t get something simple right, maybe we shouldn’t trust you with something complicated.

Oh, and by the way: the Times Union — without an editor’s note — changed the online version of the story so that the second paragraph simply reads, “Egan was “flabbergasted” by last weekend’s breakout” — without the 150-years part.

To tell you the truth, I’m a bit flabbergasted, myself.

3 responses to “The Facts Escape Them

  1. Well, if Paul Grondahl wrote it, it must be good. Maybe not right, but good.

    I’m amazed that the TU could make such a stupid mistake right on their front page. It’s especially abhorent that this could happen when everybody has a computer sitting on their desk. How long would it take to do a bit of checking? At the very least, you’d stumble across the Times story that was printed several days earlier.

    Good job, Times Union!

  2. And these people wonder why they haven’t had a raise in seven years?

  3. I think I’ve figured this out. It looks like the TU has bought into this claim by the governor and DOCCS that this is the “first” escape from the prison because it’s the first escape from the current maximum security section.

    This is, at best, a weak distinction.

    Using the blanket statement of “no escapes” is not telling the whole story, but I suppose telling the whole story makes for less compelling copy.

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