Most Unnecessary Correction Ever

In today’s Times Herald-Record, on Page 4, we’ve run a “correction” that has to be the prize-winner. Yesterday, we ran a story by Meg Murphy about (slow news day, or what?) a sedge wren. Granted, the sedge wren is quite rare in this area, although the Cornell Lab of Ornithology lists it as among the “least endangered” species of birds nationwide. Anyway, one seems to be nesting in Montgomery, a sleepy little community 20 miles or so west of Newburgh.

It’s a tiny, dull thing, hard to find in the weeds. (The sedge wren, not Montgomery. Although, come to think of it …)

We actually ran a story about the same damn wren early this spring, when it was first sighted here. i’m not sure it was Meg who wrote that first story; can’t remember. But she was definitely all over the Wren Follow-Up. Apparently, folks from local birding clubs, having seen the first story, have been trooping out to this field in Montgomery with their binoculars to try to get a glimpse of the feathery little bastard. So anyway, near the end of this sweet little feature story, Meg was writing about a group that was tramping around looking for the wren a few days ago, and she wrote: “A pewee flycatcher dipped its way across the sky, but the wren didn’t appear … They pointed binoculars toward the brush to see a song sparrow, then a mockingbird … The group made its way along the path, spotting a woodpecker, a goldfinch … ”

So why did we “have” to run a correction? We lowly copy-editors are not told such things, and can only shudder at the magnitude of the error. But rumor is that it’s the goldfinch family that lives “along the path,” and the freaking song sparrows that live near the brush, not the other way around.

Or something like that. Leave it to a birder to know and/or care, and to call in demanding a retraction. But i wouldn’t be surprised if the Goldfinches themselves called in, outraged at being mislocated in the sparrows’ lowly neighborhood, and then the Sparrows’ attorney (a crow, no doubt) called in right after that saying his clients were shocked and sickened to find themselves wrongly listed as living near the damn Goldfinches, showoffs who flash their yellow jackets all over Montgomery and fly like drunkards and with whom they would never associate in a million years, and adding that he was prepared to file a libel suit if we didn’t run a correction immediately.

And the Record hastened to do so. Check it out for yourself.


Have you heard “BackStory with the American History Guys”? It’s an NPR-style radio show where these three historians take current hot topics and delve into the background of them … going as far back as the 18th century. They do man-on-the-street interviews, talk with experts, dig up fascinating recordings, and take calls from listeners. One of my favorite things about it is the music that accompanies each segment.

They hate it when you call it this, but the best description i can think of is, it’s a “Car Talk” for American history!

Go to and listen to a few of their shows. Hilarious, and extremely well-produced! And i say this not because my kid, Rachel Quimby, is associate producer, but rather because it’s … hilarious and extremely well-produced.

Marketing the “paper-paper” online

We’re always talking about “cross-marketing,” “marketing across platforms,” etc. But it always only goes one way. The paper-paper constantly promotes our Web site,, but not vice-versa.

That’s crazy! Have we given up on trying to sell papers? Every single story that runs online should have an automatic tag or “stamp” that says something like, “Like this story? Read Oliver Mackson Monday through Friday in the Times Herald-Record, on sale at newsstands everywhere.”  Or, “Read it in the original! This story and much more are in Tuesday’s Times Herald-Record, on sale at newsstands throughout the Hudson Valley.” Or (especially for high-school sports stories), “Wouldn’t grandma and grampa love to see this? Buy Tuesday’s Times Herald-Record for all your family and friends. On sale at newsstands throughout the Hudson Valley.”

Or, most importantly, “Stories like this and much more, and coupons, too, are in the Times Herald-Record, on sale at newsstands everywhere. SAVE with a subscription! CLICK HERE to subscribe for a whole year, for just $x per week.”

If we don’t add a simple tag like this to our online stories, we’re not cross-marketing at all. We’re just promoting our Web site.

Black Entertainers whose Funerals Should Have Been Televised

Michael Jackson’s head-of-state-worthy funeral has left me stunned. He was surely one of the most athletic and creative dancers of his generation — maybe of any generation — and he was lots of fun to watch. But his death took on a life of its own.

First, newscasters put on their “serious faces” and announced it, and then went on to read the rest of the news. But somehow, within hours, all the networks and cable news shows were going “live to the scene,” as if a president had been assassinated. Next thing we knew, they were raffling off tickets to the memorial service at the Staples Center and, i suppose to keep us amused ’til then, celebrities formed a line. Up close, on-camera and blubbering into their hankies were a slew of other singers (that, i expected), ministers and — get this — civil rights leaders.

Michael Jackson was a civil rights figure? Are you sure?

Here’s a quick starter-list of 15 black singers, dancers and musicians who were more talented than Michael Jackson, whose lives had more of an impact on black/white relations than Michael Jackson’s, who were prouder of being black than Michael Jackson, and whose funerals weren’t televised like Michael Jackson’s, but should have been. Who would you add?

Big Bill Broonzy, Louis Armstrong, the Nicholas Brothers, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Miriam Makeba, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Nat (“King”) Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holiday, Charlie Mingus, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bill (“Bojangles”) Robinson.

A for God, D-minus for the city

Just back from the City of Newburgh’s annual fireworks display.  Since there’s an almost-full moon tonight, and since we had lovely, if breezy, weather today (as opposed to the past 45,800 days in a row, when we’ve had rain) — since all of this, i thought this would be a great show.

God knows we deserve it. Two years ago the weather stunk on the Fourth. It wasn’t raining, but: Bummer! We had extremely high humidity, cool temperatures and strong winds, all of which have a rotten effect on fireworks. (As in, they should be postponed.) But last year it was even worse. It might as well have been raining; it had rained all day, and the grass on the bluff was soaking wet and hadn’t been mowed in a while. Kids tried to run around before, during and after the show, but they kept tripping in the knee-deep grass. So did the grownups who were looking for a spot to plant their lawn-chairs. And the fireworks! The fireworks never got even as high as the bluff. It was probably the first time in history that spectators had to look down to see fireworks.

I live right on the bluff — the city’s southernmost street, overlooking the Hudson and Bannerman’s Island — so the whole city parades before my porch every year on the Fourth, on their way to the best viewing area. About 50 yards from my house, you can see the fireworks being launched from a boat in the middle of the river, close to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. This year, with the weather so good, i took that walk with high hopes.

God did his part. Moonshine shimmered in a bold slash across the river; fireflies glimmered in force and the stars, like proud, older siblings, seemed to be cheering them on as they themselves prickled the black, cloudless sky.  Yellowish sodium-lights on the bridge necklaced the Hudson to the north while dozens of fishing boats and sailboats sporting blue, yellow or red lights dotted the water below. And all the while small planes circled overhead, carrying, i suppose, rich people who’d paid to see the show from that unique perspective.

We Newburghers did our part. Fully equipped with marijuana, big cans of beer clad in paper bags, and hundreds of children waving Glo-sticks and sparklers, we thronged to the long curve of the bluff and staked out places to spread our picnic blankets, or just walked around greeting one another till the show began.

It was … passable. The fireworks rose higher than last year, but still not very high. The booms that accompany them were louder than last year, but still not very loud. The colors seemed fewer. Maybe green and yellow are less expensive than the other colors, but it seemed like most of the fireworks were in those two shades.  

i recall reading in the Record last year that this Fourth would be a rather lame one, for both international-disaster reasons and Newburgh reasons. A huge fireworks factory in China — i think it said it was the biggest one in the world — had exploded with loss of life, and had set, like, a whole province on fire.  And then Newburgh turned up practically totally broke, and wasn’t going to be able to afford a big fireworks show this year even if there were any fireworks to be had. But somehow, the city got hold of some, and God bless them for giving it a try.

It was kinda crummy. How can fireworks not be exciting? But i tell you, a lot of people were looking at their watches after about the first five minutes. Lots of people had brought their own fireworks and bottle rockets to the bluff, and they were getting as much attention as the show on the river.

The problem was, every launch from the boat seemed to fit one of four templates, rotating over and over again. I gave them little names:

1. “The Fountain,” a pretty display of yellow suds that shoots straight up and then explodes outward into a million bits of green twinkles. “The Fountain” was kinda small and low and never made that wonderful “boom” that you want to hear on the Fourth of July.

2. (New this year:) “A Thousand Sliver-Moons Flash On and Off as They Shimmy Down.” Again, quite beautiful and i’d never seen it before, but they replayed this one about 200 times too often tonight. Also, it produced no boom at all that we could hear on the bluff.

3. (My favorite:) “Sixteen Silver Penises Doing Synchronized Diving.” Problem: You see one, you’ve seen them all.

4. “The Big White Chrysanthemum that Crumbles into Green.” Beautiful, but after the fifth or sixth explosion of this, a toddler near me whined, “We saw that one already!” Took the words right outta my mouth.

One other thought occurred to me tonight, amid all the illegal fireworks and drugs: Are there no cops in this town? Nary a one was in sight all night long, although i suppose some plainclothes guys could have been there. 

Ah, well. As i strolled home through the haze of pot-, cigar-, and cigarette-smoke, watching for woodchuck holes, guy-wires from utility poles, and toddlers with sparklers, i heard a woman say, “That was the worst fireworks show ever!”

But no, it wasn’t. Last year’s was.

This year, i’d give God an A, and my poor, struggling city a rock-solid D-minus.