2009: No room for error

Looking back: a few miscues from this past year

So much for that spoof video in which Hitler responds to the “Avatar” trailer, anticipating that the movie will be a flop and comparing the visual effects to those in “FernGully: The Last Rainforest.”

The Internet, apparently, means never having to say you’re sorry.

The Web has obviously brought us untold blessings, but its flaws include the ability to disseminate falsehoods, half-truths and snide innuendo at lightning speed, while generally failing to correct the record quite so rapidly or ostentatiously. The adage that a lie can circle the globe while the truth is still getting its pants on has never been truer than it is today.

Indeed, the Web offers previously unimaginable freedom not so much to rectify errors in judgment or fact as to simply erase them. Yet the issue of sorting out information’s history can easily be lost in a media world where the agenda is increasingly set by TMZ’s cash-for-tipsters and self-congratulatory bloggers who may go back and rewrite items or change time stamps but seldom dare to admit an actual mistake.

Granted, nobody likes saying they were wrong, but screw-ups are inevitable — especially now, with journalists churning out more material and laboring to “do more with less,” as the new workplace mantra was derisively called on “The Wire.” In an age of cutbacks and layoffs, moreover, the hungry 24-hour news cycle is being fed with fewer pesky copy editors to serve as backstops against miscues finding their way into print and online.

In this spirit, I’m reprising the practice of cleaning out the 2009 closet by offering a few personal mea culpas — or at least acknowledging things that, with the benefit of hindsight, I might have handled somewhat differently:

Glee: Although I praised the program’s spring preview, I bashed its September return, saying that the producers accentuated all the wrong things and went far too broadly with the comedy. While the storytelling still remains a frustrating mess at times, the Fox series’ vibrant musical numbers and talented cast have consistently kept it on my TiVo must list, and I confess that even with its flaws, TV would be poorer without “Glee.”

Paul Blart: Mall Cop: In reviewing the Sony release last January, I concluded that the movie would yield “quickly diminishing returns.”

While nothing has changed my appraisal of the film itself, the review failed to recognize the box office potential of this Kevin James vehicle’s light-hearted appeal, perhaps because I was suspicious of the school-age kids the studio packed into the preview screening — an obliging audience that heartily howled at every pratfall.

Lou Dobbs: When the pugnacious Dobbs announced he was leaving CNN, it fell to me to cover the breaking news. The story referenced a New York Times report that Dobbs had met with Fox News CEO Roger Ailes — fueling speculation that a Fox Business Network gig might be among his options — without soliciting a comment from Fox, which elsewhere denied any interest in hiring Dobbs.

This was a reporting oversight, one attributable to meeting a tight deadline for Daily Variety’s Gotham edition and the misguided assumption that Fox’s famously combative PR department wouldn’t provide an official updated response when Dobbs himself was being so coy regarding his plans.

Joss Whedon fans: While the line still tickles me, it was kind of mean to suggest his acolytes have “fewer social distractions than most of their peers.”

Every F—ing Day of My Life: Several women, in particular, objected to the observation in reviewing this HBO documentary that Wendy Maldonado — currently imprisoned for killing her horribly abusive husband — had made “bad choices,” convinced that was tantamount to blaming the victim.

Although I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive — marrying in her teens and having four kids with a guy she barely knew still strike me as bad decisions — to the extent the review fostered the impression that responsibility belongs anywhere but with the bastard who brutalized her, that’s unfortunate.

There are probably a few other mild regrets, but that’s enough self-flagellation for now. Besides, in a year or two I may decide to simply pretend like none of this ever happened.

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