Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The First Rough Draft of History

Yesterday I was reading the New York Times when a correction caught my eye. It was for errors made in an obituary. An obituary for Lt. M. K. Schwenk. They got his first name wrong (Milton, not Melton) and a few other facts in the original were in error.  So the newspaper's editors dutifully published a correction.

One hundred and twelve (112) years after the fact.
"It's never too late to set the record straight. If journalism is indeed the first rough draft of history, there is always time to revise, polish and perfect..."
James Barron
Writing in the New York Times
The story is worth tracking down (or you can click the link above) if only because Barron goes on to tell the story of how difficult something that seemed on the face of it to be a relatively simple task. To verify and correct the historical record about a man who lived and died at the end of the 19th century. To "revise, polish and perfect" the story as it will be recorded for posterity.

Just a reminder if we need one that those things that go unwritten go unremembered.

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).