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On August 15, Marc Allan, associate director of public relations for Butler University, dropped a note to Mike Sneed about her Sun-Times column that day. The column said:
"Chicago connection: The parents of Butler University student Sheridan ‘Danny’ Dahlquist, a sophomore who was killed after four other students accidentally started a fire during a botched fireworks prank in Dahlquist’s bedroom, grew up in the Chicago area. To wit: Dahlquist’s father, Craig, was raised in Arlington Heights, and his mother, Patricia (nee Carew), is from Wilmette. Both of Dahlquist’s parents work at Butler University and live not far from where the accident occurred.”
Allan told Sneed, “You had the wrong university. It’s Bradley, not Butler.” Sneed wrote back, “Thanks for the e-mail. We regret the error. A correction will be made.”
The correction ran the next day on page two of the Sun-Times. Allan didn't know this. He reads the Sun-Times online, and the electronic version of Sneed’s column remained unchanged. On August 17 Allan e-mailed editor Michael Cooke. “The student was from Bradley University,” Allan wrote. “I don’t know where his parents work, but I know it’s not Butler. . . . So far, there’s been no correction--at least none that I can find online--and your website still has the incorrect information. I was hoping you’d make sure the record is corrected. Thanks much.” On August 21 he wrote Cooke again: “Don’t know if a correction ever ran in the paper, but the information is still wrong on the web site. Thanks.” On August 24 Allen e-mailed Sneed again: “Where is the correction you promised?”
By now Allen had roped me in. “Our office at Butler . . . received several calls from concerned alumni,” he wrote me. “What bothers me more than anything is, if they won't correct a simple error like this, what else don't they correct?”
On August 28 I called managing editor Don Hayner and left him a message. A day later we spoke. A couple days after that I checked Sneed’s archived column and it now said Bradley University. "Interesting that they didn't point out that it had been incorrect,” Allan wrote me. “If I'm not mistaken, if you go to a story on The NY Times site and it has been corrected, it will acknowledge the correction that appeared in print. Whatever. I'm just glad they finally fixed it. “
Shouldn’t a newspaper correction acknowledge that it’s correcting something? Otherwise, is it an Orwellian exercise in pretending that what is now so was always so?