At any given moment, there is information floating around the Internet — publicly, no less — about you. It’s a natural effect of the digital age that, while some get shivers over the lose of privacy, has made it astronomically easier to disseminate news and communicate. At the bottom of this writing you can even “share” this post via email, Facebook, Twitter and so on without my knowledge.
For this reason, it’s advisable to do a search of your name in quotes every now and then. You might be surprised by what you find.
Following my own advice last week, I stumbled upon a blog written for the New York Times that made an entry about a story of mine concerning snail homes in Shanghai, which I published with GlobalPost last January. The sensation of awe and excitement stemming from the discovery soon dissipated, however, after I read the short piece and noticed that I had been misquoted — twice.
First, I was quoted as saying that “[The] apartments in Yangpu district are so tiny that few pieces of furniture fit inside besides a bed and a desk,” inferring that all of the apartments in Yangpu district are of the same diminutive stature befitting the apt description: snail homes. This was taken completely out of context; the lede sentence clearly reports that I am specifically singling out the Longchang Apartments of Yangpu district, an area which equates to the size of a borough in New York City.
Secondly, Schott’s Vocab, the name of the blog by Ben Schott devoted to culling new terms in today’s global lexicon, defined snail homes as being “cramped and expensive” housing, the latter of the two definitions being erroneous. Hobbit-sized apartments with high price tags are common in Shanghai, but a snail home, a term coined by the author widely known as Liuliu, is associated with low-income quarters that many Chinese are stuck in because of the economic distance required to move up to mid-range housing.
Though peeved as I was, the New York Times pulled through with a correction page after three days or so. I would have liked to credit this sad, small saga to the flash-pan reporting style that reporters for the New York Times often have to work with, but other recent slip ups with their reporting on China makes me hesitate…