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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Dog of a story

In case you missed it November 27, 2021 at 3:35 a.m.

READERS will recall that this opinion section is separate from the news section—as it should be at all newspapers. Oh, we say “hi” to the Other Side in the elevators, but we don’t sit in on their budget meetings (those daily gatherings in which they discuss stories and where they should be played) and they don’t shape the opinions you’ll read on these pages. It’s the best way to do newspaper business.

And it also means a lot of days we’re surprised at the news, every bit as much as you are.

For those who get the replica edition, you might have noticed the extra story in Thursday’s section. It was one long correction by the Associated Press. And being a respected and responsible media outlet, the AP often issues corrections. But usually not one that’s a dozen-plus column inches.

It all started when the AP put out a story about a dog that supposedly owned a house that had once been among Madonna’s possessions. Yes, the singer Madonna. And yes, a real dog—a German shepherd. You might have noticed the story elsewhere. Because it made the rounds.

But it turns out, the story was a story. As in what Grandma used to call a “story”—something that wasn’t exactly true.

“For more than 20 years,” the story/correction/admission went, “a line of German shepherds named Gunther has been presented in news stories as the wealthy beneficiaries of a German countess. The story appears to be a ruse created by Maurizio Mian, the scion of an Italian pharmaceutical company, who has used the tale of the globe-trotting canine to promote real estate sales and other projects.” And last week the AP reported that a dog was selling a Miami mansion for $31.75 million. With money from the German countess who left it to the dog’s line.

“While the mansion is in fact owned and being sold by the Gunther Corp., according to Miami-Dade County property records, the dog’s role appears to be little more than a joke that’s carried on for decades.” Thus the correction by the AP, and thus the replica edition story carried by this paper.

Reporters are people, too, even at the Associated Press. But a responsible news outlet takes its lumps at times like this, and doesn’t just ignore the facts when it is, as the AP admits, “duped.” Paul Greenberg used to tell us all the time: Don’t be afraid to print a correction. It might just be the best-read thing on the page.



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