Syndicate Advisory Cites Error in Mitch Albom Column

By: Dave Astor Tribune Media Services today sent Mitch Albom's newspaper clients an advisory about what it called "a factual inaccuracy" in the bestselling author's April 3 column.

In the Detroit Free Press piece -- filed last Friday for publication on Sunday -- Albom wrote in the past tense about something he thought would happen last Saturday. Albom had interviewed two NBA players about their plans to get together at Saturday's NCAA basketball game between Michigan State (the players' alma mater) and North Carolina. Then he wrote in the past tense about their experience at the game. But scheduling conflicts caused the two players to miss the game.

Attached to the TMS advisory was today's note to Free Press readers from Albom. He wrote, in part: "I assumed that what I had been told by Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson had indeed happened, that they had indeed flown to the Final Four, sat in the stands together rooting on Michigan State in Saturday's game. That was their plan. Both told me so in separate interviews. Because the column had to be filed on Friday afternoon, but appeared on Sunday, I wrote it in the past tense, as if it already had happened. While it was hardly the thrust of the column -- which was about nostalgia and college athletes -- it was wrong just the same. ... So I owe you and the Free Press an apology."

John Twohey, TMS vice president of editorial and operations, told E&P late this afternoon: "We agree with what Mitch said in his message. It's dangerous to write about events that haven't transpired yet. He's one of the top columnists in the country, and he acknowledged that he made a mistake."

One writer to the Poynter Institute's Romenesko site wondered if Albom would have been fired by the Free Press if he wasn't a bestselling author (of "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Five People You Meet in Heaven"). Another letter posted to the Romenesko site said: "Certainly, every editor at the newspaper had to know Albom's column was bogus. But they only admitted it when the players failed to attend the game and shattered their charade. ... To save?the newspaper's credibility, there needs to be more punishment for Albom and his enablers than an embarassing correction and mea culpa column. Whether or not the Free Press has the stones to take action and salvage its reputation is the only question remaining."

Free Press editors and Albom did not return E&P calls for comment.

TMS declined to give the number of newspapers that buy Albom's feature. A Google search indicated that the April 3 column was published, at a minimum, by clients such as the Tallahasse (Fla.) Democrat, Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, and Aberdeen (S.D.) American News.


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