The British Press provided a lovely demonstration of the efficacy of professional journalists and fact-checkers when they ran an article revealing their rather complete ignorance of things nautical.
It was a perfect convergence of journalist's ignorance matching their worldview and giving them a story that they could get some outrage and headlines over - waste by the defense sector.
However, even anyone with a passing familiarity with the subject could have pointed out they were all wet.
Legions of fact-checkers and editors really bombed on this one.
A British tabloid made an embarrassing error Friday, writing a hysterical piece that incorrectly reported the Defence Ministry had paid hundreds of millions of pounds to buy a five-inch-long gun.
“We just blew £183m on a five-inch gun, but it’s ‘a good value for taxpayers,’” read the outraged headline from The Daily Star. The subheadline also reinforced that the author believed the gun was literally five inches, calling it “the length of a toothbrush.”
The only problem? Five-inch guns are named after their caliber, not their length. They shoot munitions that are five inches in diameter, meaning the guns themselves are necessarily huge.
Yes, the Daily Star was in high dudgeon that their navy had spent millions of pounds on guns they claimed to be the size of toothbrushes. Unoftunately for the Daily Star, they're not.
Did no one there even open a copy of Jane's Fighting Ships before running with the story? I mean, it's the ultimate reference guide to the subject made by the British fer crying out loud, and they didn't think to check before accusing their own Ministry of Defence of wasting funds on toothbrush-sized guns?
Instead of issuing a correction for their faux pas, the Star simply changed the article once their ignorance was pointed out, while slightly changing the headline.