I just sent the following e-mail to National Public Radio:
Subject: Error in today’s story “A Brief History of New York Blackouts”
In his report on the New York blackouts of 1965 and 1977, John Nielsen stated that “in 1977, the war in Vietnam was on the nightly news.” Actually, the war ended in 1975. I’m sure Nielsen is right that the social changes wrought by Vietnam were a factor in the breakdown of order during the ’77 blackout — but that’s no excuse for getting basic historical facts wrong.
This may seem like nitpicking, but it isn’t. Journalists are supposed to verify their information before they go to press with it. It took me all of ten seconds to find out when the Vietnam War ended. Nielsen could have done the same thing, but he didn’t bother. And the editors and fact-checkers at NPR didn’t notice the error, either.
If Nielsen and NPR aren’t willing to do simple, easy research like this, how can we trust them with real investigative journalism?