New York Times sees no cosmic reason to correct Pluto 'selfie'

pluto selfie

There will be no correction from the New York Times for a uniquely 21st century gaffe.

Writing in the newspaper last week, Times cosmic affairs correspondent Dennis Overbye tried to capture the enormity of the New Horizons' flyby of Pluto.

"The craft had just slipped into the shadow of the dwarf planet and turned around to look back at the Earth through Pluto's atmosphere," wrote Overbye. "It was an extraordinary time for a cosmic selfie, a historic day in space and here on Earth."

That turn of phrase was teed up perfectly for Jason Feifer, an editor at Maxim and the creator of the viral Tumblr account, "Selfies at Funerals." Feifer reached out to the Times to spot the "error" in Overbye's piece.

"A selfie is a photo that someone takes of themselves, not simply a photo of someone (or something)," Feifer wrote. "Pluto did not, and cannot, take a selfie."

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Feifer said on Twitter that a correction over the misused term would represent "the greatest thing I have ever done." He may want to set a new goal.

On Monday, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that she doesn't believe a correction is coming, nor does she believe one is necessary.

"But I certainly would have loved to read its wording," Sullivan added.

Feifer seemed OK with this, calling Sullivan's commentary "a fine consolation prize."

You are forgiven if nothing in Overbye's use of "selfie" didn't strike you as a mistake. But to a community of web obsessives, the erroneous use of the term is a continual source of annoyance.

The gaffe is owed to the word's youth and ubiquity. After all, it was just only two years ago when "selfie" was anointed Oxford's word of the year.

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The term itself has become something of a catch-all for virtually every photo -- including those snapped in some of the farthest reaches of our galaxy.

The New York Times' corrections have occasionally achieved viral status and are noted for their frequency as well as some of the arcane items they address.

One correction fixed the identities of characters in "My Little Pony"; another made it clear that a captured terrorist suspect was sipping a strawberry frappe, not mango juice.


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