If you want to know who founded the Independent newspaper, you’d better not go to Lord Justice Leveson’s report on the behaviour of the press for your information. At paragraph 8.5 of part C he names them as ‘the journalists Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Brett Straub’. Which is also what you’d have found if you’d visited Wikipedia after Brett Straub, whom strong circumstantial evidence identifies as ‘a lazy bum-like person who loves cars and hanging out with friends and family’ from California, decided to write himself into the history of journalism at the expense of Matthew Symonds. Quite why Mr Straub chose that particular Wikipedia page to tamper with is a bit of a mystery – but he has now achieved a different type of notoriety, with his own entry as a Wikipedia vandal. Maybe that’s what he wanted all along.
Would you expect a proofreader to spot this (and perhaps we’d better say that, although Accuracy Matters does work on inquiry reports, this wasn’t one of ours)? No, not really, the fault clearly lies elsewhere if you’re looking for someone to blame – especially if the brief was, as it often is, ‘just check for spelling and grammar etc, we’ve verified the facts’. For all that, you like to think that the antennae might have twitched a bit. Brett Straub? Odd name for an 80s UK journo? And, whatever the brief, if you know (or strongly suspect) that something might be wrong, you’d raise it as an issue.
Does it matter? It doesn’t affect any of the report’s conclusions, after all. But, as the Independent was quick to point out, given the major telling off that LJ Leveson had administered to the press about the importance of accuracy, it’s clearly a bit embarrassing (even if, you suspect, it wasn’t his own unquestioning copy-and-paste that created the problem) – and the error does, if only by the smallest of iotas, diminish the authority of his work.