AP Expands on Corrections of 'Tuam Babies' Story

In a report released June 23, the Associated Press expanded on the corrections it issued on June 20 after America asked an AP media representative to respond to apparent inaccuracies in its reporting on the scandal swirling around the dispostion of deceased residents of a mothers and babies home in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland between 1925 and 1962.

According to the AP:


Revelations this month that nuns had buried nearly 800 infants and young children in unmarked graves at an Irish orphanage during the last century caused stark headlines and stirred strong emotions and calls for investigation. Since then, however, a more sober picture has emerged that exposes how many of those headlines were wrong.

The case of the Tuam "mother and baby home" offers a study in how exaggeration can multiply in the news media, embellishing occurrences that should have been gripping enough on their own....The reports of unmarked graves shouldn't have come as a surprise to the Irish public, who for decades have known that some of the 10 defunct "mother and baby homes," which chiefly housed the children of unwed mothers, held grave sites filled with forgotten dead.

The religious orders' use of unmarked graves reflected the crippling poverty of the time, the infancy of most of the victims, and the lack of plots in cemeteries corresponding to the children's fractured families.

It added:

When Corless published her findings on a Facebook campaign page, and Irish media noticed, she speculated to reporters that the resting place of most, if not all, could be inside a disused septic tank on the site. By the time Irish and British tabloids went to print in early June, that speculation had become a certainty, the word "disused" had disappeared, and U.S. newspapers picked up the report, inserting more errors, including one that claimed the researcher had found all 796 remains in a septic tank.

The Associated Press was among the media organizations that covered Corless and her findings, repeating incorrect Irish news reports that suggested the babies who died had never been baptized and that Catholic Church teaching guided priests not to baptize the babies of unwed mothers or give to them Christian burials.

The reports of denial of baptism later were contradicted by the Tuam Archdiocese, which found a registry showing that the home had baptized more than 2,000 babies. The AP issued a corrective story on Friday after discovering its errors.

You can read America's coverage here and here.





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Tim O'Leary
4 years 6 months ago
thank you Kevin and America for great coverage on this tale. The AP story also revealed the causes and decades of death of the children (who were all baptized, by the way). 91, 247, 388, 70, 1 in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s & 1960s. AP reports the most common causes of death were: flu, measles, pneumonia, tuberculosis and whooping cough. The AP adds: "Contrary to the allegations of widespread starvation highlighted in some reports, only 18 children were recorded as suffering from severe malnutrition." Isn't a failure to correct a story proven to be false in a timely manner the same as a lie? Salon should get the biggest “Liar” prize for its most egregious attack on the nuns and nary a correction since. But the Irish Times and the Irish Independent would be close runner-ups.
Kevin Clarke
4 years 6 months ago

Corrections/retractions just about never receive the same attention as the initial media detonation on such sensational stories, but I'm a little surprised more outlets did not take advanatge of the two posts from the AP on this to correct the record or at least walk back their stories a little, particularly someone like Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon who wrote several scorching pieces on this topic. Perhaps she feels, as others must, that they don't share in culpability for spreading a false narrative because they relied on the reporting of others or that they added enough qualifiers or...I don't know what, but even opinion writers are required to have their facts straight. It seems to me some clarification or at least an explanation of why they don't feel a correction is warranted would be the least they could do. She has moved on to the exploits of drunken minor celebrities...

David Smith
4 years 6 months ago
Corrections are almost useless. They serve, I suppose, mostly as legal cover. Since they're rarely published conspicuously on the front page but tucked away elsewhere, few people who read the original stories will see or learn of them. This is especially problematical when, as in this instance, the original story amounts to an attack on a person or an organization. I wonder whether the need for corrections in the news is increasing, as news organizations cut corners in an attempt to stay financially viable. If so - and that seems likely - there are at least two unfortunate consequences: more misinformation is spread, and the credibility of news organizations suffers, leading, no doubt, to a further drop in paid circulation and, probably, even more errors.
Rory Connor
4 years 6 months ago
The following extract from an article in the Sunday Independent by Dr Maurice Gueret, editor of the "Irish Medical Directory" should finally dispose of the "babies bodies in a septic tank" obscenity: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/we-need-less-outrage-and-more-home-truths-about-tuam-30380889.html
The sight of politicians calling for declaration of crime scenes and a newspaper arranging radar examination of a graveyard does little to bring clarity to a complicated story. It was no secret that many children died young, especially in the 1920s and 1930s. They were dying all over Ireland from infectious diseases. Principal causes were TB, dysentery, diphtheria, meningitis, bacterial pneumonia, and complications of measles and polio. This was the pre-antibiotic era. You were considered lucky if all your children lived to adulthood. Every year, the Galway Health Board would advertise a public contract in local newspapers for a supply of coffins to its Tuam children's home. They were to be made of white deal, one-inch thick, and supplied in three different sizes. Specifications included electro-brassed grips, breastplate and crucifixes. It was no state secret that orphanages that looked after large numbers of vulnerable children, most under the age of five, had higher death rates than the community at large.
[My Emphasis} When the official tribunal produces its Report in a year or so, I predict that it will ignore the false atrocity stories in favour of a swinging denunciation of our grandparents "repressive" attitudes to unmarried mothers. Thus the journalists responsible for the current libel will feel virtuous and vindicated!


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