One of my favorite local magazines recently published an article about polygamy. They called it a satire piece later. After they seemed to gain a lot of negative attention about the article, then they published a retraction and an apology.
I don’t know that they had planned it all along, but it sure looked that way from my perspective. They printed a letter from one of the people who was mentioned in the article and apologized to that person. It seemed too easily and conveniently orchestrated to me, but I could definitely be wrong.
Within the original article, the writer had so much pro-polygamy information, that it would be difficult, I think, to retract all of it with a simple, single line stating that he has anti-polygamy beliefs. So that’s the question of the day: Is it possible to deny paragraphs and essays with only one sentence? Or do you think like I do, and believe that the denial should be as long or longer than the original admission?
Even if the piece was intended to be satirical, shouldn’t the correction of everyone’s misperceptions take as much effort as the misleading text? Would you be satisfied if someone misrepresented you and gave a quick, terse apology? Would that feel more like a dismissal than an apology?
To give this magazine and its editor credit: generally the stories and articles in the magazine are top-quality, and by generally I mean a high 90%. But to their discredit: the article about polygamy they wrote does not state anywhere “satire”. So I can see how anyone reading it could have misunderstood.
Remember that lesson when you’re doing your own writing. If it’s at all possible for someone to misunderstand the intent, make sure you put the word satire before the article, especially if you have the names of real people included.