The best New York Times correction ever

Correction: December 30, 2011

An article on Monday about Jack Robinson and Kirsten Lindsmith, two college students with Asperger syndrome who are navigating the perils of an intimate relationship, misidentified the character from the animated children's TV show "My Little Pony" that Ms. Lindsmith said she visualized to cheer herself up. It is Twilight Sparkle, the nerdy intellectual, not Fluttershy, the kind animal lover.

Navigating Love and Autism [NYT via Kerri Hicks.]

Update: Kat Stoeffel of The New York Observer reports on the the background story behind the correction, and the journalistic attention to detail it represents.


  1. I’d argue that it’s only the second best NYT correction:

    1. I came here to post that, but you’d beaten me to it.   I enjoy The Dugout’s comments about it: “I love living in a world where this is not only factual information about sports, but in need of such a hyper-specific, nerdy retraction.”

      1. Sports is one of the nerdiest things out there.  I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone that knows as much about Star Trek as my dad does about his football team.  But for some reason it’s socially acceptable to be obsessed with a group of 11 men that wear small shorts and kick a ball from one end of a field to the other; but not lasers and space travel.  Weird, huh.

        1. Yeah, though it’s worth noting that not all sports obsession is tolerated.  There are bad stereotypes about insane football fans (of both sorts of football).  That applies to players as well, though I suspect that gainful employment does a lot to negate that.  For that matter, gainfully employed nerds (certain famous software people) are discriminated against less than nerds that do it for love alone.

          There’s a line between the mere nerd, and the arch nerd, and people have different names for them.  The mere nerd is really interested in things, and lets that interest become a part of their social life.  The arch nerd defines their life in terms of what they are interested in, which can be disastrous for their interactions with others.
          This, and the realization that sports was nerdy, came to me when I was living with a martial arts nerd.  I used to do martial arts and I sometimes would geek out about it, but this guy cared about fighting prowess more than just about anything else.  You could tell that he saw the social order of the world as primarily determined by who could defeat who in one-on-one combat.  In little circles of other people who thought that way, he did well.  When he was teaching at a martial arts school, people respected him.  When he stopped teaching, he started interacting with a lot more people who thought he was a complete weirdo.  The thing is, he didn’t really notice or at least, he didn’t seem to care.  He could beat up most people and thus he thought of himself as somehow better than them, and anyone who didn’t respect that kind of power was an idiot.
          The mere/arch nerdery distinction has been useful for me to take back to my understanding of conventional nerds.  Some people love computers, D&D, comic books, etc.  That’s fine, and often a love for this sort of thing is socially tolerated to a large degree.  The point at which nerds really start getting ostracized is when they stop being able to relate to other people in any terms other than through their interests.
          I like to think of myself as a mere nerd, but I struggle against being an arch nerd a lot, because sometimes it’s just unfathomable to me how people even think about anything without certain crucial scientific and mathematical concepts that are endemic to my profession.

          1. All of that goes to say that people don’t like it when you’re like “No, that’s not how the new offsides rules work, you idiot” just as much as they don’t like it when you’re like “Arggg, you would know that was impossible if you had even a basic understanding of algorithmic information theory.”

      1. I would like Applejack to be best pony, but she hasn’t had a lot of character development yet, so until that happens, it’s still TS.

    1. Am I the only one who feels weird for it being called “Twilight … Sparkle”?

      Sometimes when I write it, I feel I’m leaving a positive review for a certain vampire book. And it scares me a bit.

  2. What the hell is that photo in the post? That’s not the My Little Pony I was forced to watch instead of Tekkaman by my sis as a kid.

        1. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger.
          Anger leads to hate. 
          Hate leads to suffering.

      1. Man, I feel like old-school My Little Pony animators would have put adorable, oversized “geek” glasses on at least ONE of these two ponies. And I feel sort of cheated that neither of them are bespectacled. 

          1. Actually, Twilight has never worn glasses in the show. Rarity, the artist and fashion designer, does wear glasses while working though. Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I only know this because Rarity is best pony. 

            Edit: Whoops. I just remembered Twilight wore glasses in one episode for a couple seconds when she was dressed as a psychiatrist.

          2. Rarity wears glasses when she is sewing or designing.

            And Rainbow Dash has “awesome” shades.

            Pinkie Pie sometimes wears goofy “joke” glasses.

            I think the only ones that never have anything over their eyes at all are Applejack and Fluttershy…

    1. Well, I’d be very surprised to hear it if any of the earlier series had done a Tribble episode. Or a Clients From Hell episode. Or gotten John de Lancie to voice a Q homage.

  3. Also for your delectation: a high school student’s presentation on the physics of My Little Pony.

    1. She’s fun to watch, but I imagine her parties would be a bit more stressful for folks with ASDs than other people, given how loud she likes them.

  4. Ha!  I was discussing this article with my son, a devoted Brony, and he immediately corrected me when I quoted this point from the article.  He’s a genius, I tell you.

  5. Many other Times corrections vie for best ever. One such provides the title for a 2002 anthology of them, “Kill Duck Before Serving; Red Faces at the New York Times.” The eponymous correction, from 1981, is as follows: “An article about decorative cooking incorrectly described a presentation of Muscovy Duck by Michel Fitoussi, a New York chef. In preparing it, Mr. Fitoussi uses a duck that has been killed.”

  6. It’s a fair mistake. Fluttershy is as much of a nerd as Twillight Sparkle is, only she obsesses over animals instead of books. In fact, all of the Mane 6 are nerds or geeks in their own field of expertise  and I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

  7. Although it might seem silly to a reader, I would venture that the error was very important to the young girl in the article (who most likely read it). 

    1. I totally agree with this. It doesn’t really matter whether the topic is a girl’s favorite cartoon or some new scientific breakthrough. If you’re going to publish someone’s statements, you ought to do it accurately and do a good job. I really dig the fact that the editor thought it was important to redact even such a small detail.

    2. Yep, and as Sekino noted I’m very glad they decided to issue this correction; it’s rather touching really. I do hope most people who saw this interpreted it this way, and not as something stupid to laugh at.

  8. I thought this one, from the Toronto Star, was pretty good too, when I saw it the other day:

    “A Dec. 22 article about interfaith families incorrectly stated that Jacob and Eli Davis were circumcised when they converted to Judaism at ages 6 and 18 months. In fact, both boys were circumcised shortly after birth, but upon their conversion, a ritual ceremony was performed.”–life-correction-for-december-28

  9. I’ll just stick this here:

     Yes, I knew the correction was funny, on some level. We even tried, a little bit, to maximize its entertainment value in the way we worded it. The editor who helped me did predict that it would earn a place in the correction hall of fame. But I have to say I’ve been surprised at the extent of the reaction, especially the comments – well-meaning as they are — that imply we went above and beyond in making it. “Perhaps the reporter has undiagnosed Asperger’s,’’ someone wrote in a Facebook comment forwarded to me by an amused friend.
    The Times’ rule is, we correct anything that is wrong, no matter how small or seemingly silly. And I don’t know any of my colleagues who would want to do differently. 
    (  — )Another part of the Times’ corrections policy, which arose after the awfulness of Jayson Blair, is that each correction is entered in a tracking system that includes who was responsible, and an explanation of how the error came to be. – Amy Harmon

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