Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bad Reporting Is Even Worse

Last week I wrote about a bit of bad reporting surrounding the death of the typewriter – NBC News, among other outlets, reported that the last manufacturer of typewriters in the world, India's Godrej & Boyce, ceased production of the iconic office machine. The reality was that Godrej & Boyce in fact halted production of their typewriter line in 2009 and was only now nearing the end of their warehoused stock. Apparently though, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the typewriter's demise have been greatly exaggerated – and some sloppy reporting is even worse than originally thought.

The North Jersey Record tracked down Swintec Corp., a Moonachie, New Jersey-based company that still builds and sells typewriters. According to Swintec's General manager Ed Michael, they still have a fairly solid business selling electronic typewriters, with their main clients being “correctional institutions” who favor a funky version with a clear plastic case (presumably so the residents of said correctional institutions can't hide any contraband within the typewriter's casing). Michael adds that: “we sell to anyone who needs one [a typewriter].” He also tells the Record that he was surprised to read the stories about the death of the typewriter since he has recently been interviewed by media outlets, including the BBC, about Swintec's continued sales of typewriters.

So not only did a whole host of media sources get the initial story about Godrej & Boyce wrong – that they stopped manufacture of typewriters in 2009 not 2011, but Godrej & Boyce wasn't even the “world's last” manufacturer of typewriters in the first place. This might seem like a small story to get worked up over, but as my journalism professors at Gonzaga University taught me, if as a reader I can't trust you to get the small things right, why should I trust you on the big ones?
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