Dr. Larry Burriss Commentary: ‘ERRORS’

MTSU Dr. Larry Burriss
The word errors written with a pencil on white paper. An eraser from a pencil is starting to erase the word errors.

Oct. 09, 2023

OK, I’m going to come right out and say it: I think there is a place for errors, mistakes, and over-reactions in the news. But only because they can be so much fun.

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Now I don’t mean a simple blunder like a misspelled word in a headline, or blowing a line in a movie. Or even a deliberately planted piece of misinformation. I mean something we have gotten honest-to-goodness, totally, completely wrong?


On Oct. 16, 1922, North Carolina State College of Agriculture began operating its first radio station. At the opening ceremony, former Navy secretary Josephus Daniels said, “Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow to our Pacific possessions…Radio makes surprise impossible.” Words spoken apparently 19 years too soon.
Or try this one: On Oct. 17, 1845, The entire audience walked out of a reading of “The Raven,” not because of the poem, but in objection to the reader, Edgar Allan Poe.
And people think audiences these days are too tough.
Even people who are supposed to know what they’re doing can make some silly mistakes. On another October 17, this time 1961, The New York Museum of Modern Art put the Henri Matisse painting “Le Bateau” on display. Unfortunately, they hung the painting upside-down. And even worse, the error wasn’t discovered for some six weeks. I wonder what the art critics had to say about that?
Of course, some things have happened that we really aren’t sure if they are mistakes or not, of if they are good or bad.

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On Oct. 18, 1892, Alexander Graham Bell sent the first phone message from New York to Chicago. And on another October 18, 82 years later in1974, the movie, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” opened.
One might be considered a curse, and the other a blessing. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
I think we in the media sometimes take ourselves way too seriously. You name a topic, and there is someone, somewhere ready to do an editorial, dissect it on a talk show, or find someone who did it with someone else’s wife or husband.
Maybe we need to lighten up a bit, and stop to smell the geraniums, er, uh, roses.
I’m Larry Burriss.

Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)