John McPhee had a nice piece about fact-checking in a recent issue of the New Yorker which included this anecdote:
The worst checking error is calling people dead who are not dead. In the words of Josh Hersh, “It really annoys them”. Sara [a retired New Yorker fact-checker] remembers a reader in a nursing home who read in The New Yorker that he was the “late reader” in the nursing home. He wrote demanding a correction. The New Yorker, in its next issue, of course complied, inadvertently doubling the error, because the reader died over the weekend while the magazine was being printed.
John McPhee, “Checkpoints”, New Yorker, Feb 9&16, 2009.
Later: Julian Barnes (who wrote the magazine’s ‘Letter from London’ for years) had a nice essay about the New Yorker’s fact-checkers in one of his books. Now where did I put it?