Just how big a deal in Ireland is the July 23 sexual orientation mix-up for which both Forbes magazine and item author David Monagan have solemnly apologized? Well, it’s not every day that a correction leads to a separate informational page in the recipient country’s leading newspaper, to educate readers about the culpable publication and journalist.
James O’Shea, a staff writer at New York-based website irishcentral.com, speculates that Monagan must have blanked while making incidental mention in his post of Irish president Michael D. Higgins, thinking instead of another since-defeated political candidate:
Forbes likely mixed up Higgins with another presidential candidate, David Norris, who is gay and has written and talked extensively about it.
Both men competed for the job of Irish president in 2011. Norris was the original front-runner, but his campaign collapsed amid allegations that he was not sufficiently outspoken against pedophilia.
Monagan, who writes the “Letter from Ireland” blog for Forbes, moved to the Emerald Isle ten years ago from Connecticut. You have to feel for the guy; we all make mistakes, but rarely do they have the power to turn into full-fledged diplomatic hat-in-hand situations.
At press time, UK’s The Independent was giving Forbes the most guff for publishing the entirely erroneous reference to married father-of-four Higgins’ private life.
Update – 07/29/13: Monagan has posted a thorough, depressing summary of the circumstances that led to his unfortunate mistake. He also reveals in the Independent piece that he will no longer be blogging for Forbes:
The mistake was a whopper, and the fault was mine. However, there is another important story here as well – which is rather about the cynical state that journalism is today being driven to by powers far beyond the control of journalists themselves.
Even those of us with decades of experience, and long-known for our precision and passion for the truth, are struggling to make an income by latching on to a world of online journalism where there is no traditional safety net.
You hit “post” and off your article flies. Generally, there are no senior editors to ask any questions about what we report, no junior sub editors to screen the article before it goes live, and certainly no fact checkers – at least not until the damage is already done. In fact, we even have to do the graphic design too, and payment requests drift off to India.