‘To err is human, to forgive divine.”
So said English poet Alexander Pope in his “An Essay on Criticism” in 1711. Some people attribute the quote to Shakespeare, but when they do that, they, well, err.
We should forgive them, though.
In the newspaper business, to err is to write a correction, and I’ve written my share over the years.
You mishear something, you write something you were “sure” you knew, you misread your notes. Your mind skips ahead to the next paragraph and you write the wrong name or date.
The New York Times, for the most part, is good about correcting things. Sometimes even the most arcane minutiae, things almost no one would notice or care about, are corrected in the Times.
What we’re getting to today is the story from Friday: “No longer in shadows, Pentagon’s UFO unit will make some findings public.”
It contained a doozy of a correction.
Just from the headline alone, it sounds like a huge story. Haven’t people been debating whether we’ve been visited by spacecraft from beyond this world for decades?
Hasn’t there always been the suspicion on the part of many that the government knew more than it was telling?
The original version of the Times story was nothing short of a blockbuster, based on the quote, inexplicably buried several paragraphs down, from former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.
Say what you want about the now retired senator, but for many years he held a position of great authority in the government. What he says carries some clout.
Talking about “objects of unknown origin,” the Times story had Reid saying that “crashes had occurred” and that “retrieved materials had been studied secretly for decades.”
What?! It’s all true? Roswell?
But a correction on the Times website quickly followed:
“An earlier version of this article inaccurately rendered remarks attributed to Harry Reid, the retired Senate majority leader from Nevada. Mr. Reid said he believed that crashes of objects of unknown origin may have occurred and that retrieved materials should be studied; he did not say that crashes had occurred and that retrieved materials had been studied secretly for decades.”
Well, that’s a horse of a different color, isn’t it? “May have occurred” and “should be studied” carry quite different meanings than “had occurred” and “had been studied.”
It’s still a big story; that the Pentagon is finally opening up its UFO files, at least a bit. But not as big as the idea that they know UFOs crashed here and we’ve been studying them for decades.
I never got too excited about the UFO debate. My astronomy professor at Syracuse University, Gunter Wessel, was asked about UFOs one day in class.
He said he did not believe what pilots spotted in the sky were alien spacecraft. If there are beings capable of traveling here from beyond our galaxy, they are so far beyond our level of advancement and intelligence that they certainly wouldn’t crash on Earth or allow lowly earthlings to detect them.
That made sense to me.
I guess we’ll find out soon. It figures this would come out in 2020.
William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.