Mitch Albom apologizes to readers for error in column
April 7, 2005, 4:11 PM
DETROIT (AP) -- Best-selling author Mitch Albom apologized Thursday to readers of the Detroit Free Press for incorrectly reporting that two former Michigan State players attended Saturday's Michigan State-North Carolina NCAA basketball game. He said he wrote the column before the game took place.
Albom said he based the column on what former Michigan State players Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson told him they planned to do. He said he wrote the column in the past tense, as if the events already had happened, because the column had to be filed Friday afternoon -- a day before the game -- but would appear Sunday.
The column said the players, who now play in the NBA, "sat in the stands, in their MSU clothing, and rooted on their alma mater." It said Richardson flew in by private plane and that Cleaves flew commercial. The column quoted the players about the differences between life in college and in the NBA.
The Free Press said in a correction Thursday that Cleaves and Richardson were not, in fact, at the game. Albom had interviewed the two last Thursday and Friday about their plans, which changed because of scheduling conflicts, the paper said.
The Free Press said the section in which the column appeared was printed before the game.
Albom, host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show and author of the best-selling books "Tuesdays With Morrie" and "The Five People You Meet in Heaven," said in the column Thursday he should not have assumed that Cleaves and Richardson would be at the game.
"You can't write that something happened that didn't, even if it's just who sat in the stands," he wrote.
"While our deadlines would have required some weird writing -- something like, 'By the time you read this, if Mateen and Jason stuck to their plans, they would have sat in the stands for Saturday's game' -- it should have been done. We have high standards at this newspaper, and I have high standards for myself. We -- the editors and I -- got caught in an assumption that shouldn't have happened. It won't again."
The paper's correction apologized for misleading readers.
"We do not present as fact events that have not occurred," it said.
Carole Leigh Hutton, publisher and editor of the Free Press, said in a telephone interview the incident was "a colossal error in judgment that should have been caught before it ever got to the paper."
"Inexplicably, it didn't," she said.
I have always respected Albom as a writer...but even taking this kind of creative lead way is troublesome...