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Fairness & Accuracy

NPR's Error-Filled Map: An Explanation

On Sunday morning Jan. 24, NPR's Goats and Soda blog published a piece with the title, "What Are You Afraid Of In 2016? Globetrotters Share Their Fears." The post was accompanied by an illustration, done by a freelance artist, which depicted some travelers' anxieties, from food-borne disease to access to quality health care. One element of the illustration was meant to show the Middle East and North Africa, the region of the world that travelers identified as presenting the greatest risk.

The map portion of the illustration had a number of mistakes, the most notable being that Israel was labeled as "Palestine." There were other errors, as well, as an editor's note (added later and reprinted below) details. After the online pro-Israel publication HonestReporting posted a report that focused on the exclusion of Israel, critical emails began coming in. NPR's editors moved swiftly to remove the map Sunday evening, as they should have.

I asked Marc Silver, the blog's editor, how the errors came about. He told me by email: "The artist doing the illustration for this post added the map element. It was one of many elements in his illustration depicting what world travelers perceive as potential risks when they are abroad. We should have carefully reviewed each map label for inaccuracies and omissions and failed to do so."

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NPR has worked with the illustrator, Patric Sandri, once before and his portfolio includes work for The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and Bloomberg News, among others, Silver said. He added that Sandri used his own sources for the map but NPR takes "responsibility for these errors because of our failure to check the map carefully."

I heard back from an apologetic Sandri Tuesday. He said by email that, "it was not my political intention to draw the map that way at all," calling it a mistake that happened because "I had a very short time for creating the illustration. If you work under time pressure mistakes can happen." He added that he was surprised that the NPR staff did not catch the mistakes themselves, and said they should have double-checked, as well; "They approved everything and really liked the illustration. I only had to change small details."

Here's the full editor's note that now accompanies the blog post: "The original version of this post contained a map illustration intended to represent the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which poll respondents identified as the region presenting the greatest risk to travelers and expatriates in 2016. The map had a number of errors. The countries of Cyprus, Israel and Turkey were either not shown or not labeled; the label for "Palestine" should have read "Palestinian territories"; and Afghanistan and Pakistan were mistakenly included. NPR apologizes for these errors."

Update Jan. 26, 2016

This post was updated to include comment from the illustrator.