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ELLEN GOODMAN

At the end of the calendar, a year full of corrections

THIS YEAR, we were tempted to pass up our traditional fess up. After all, 2004 was not a bull market for confessions and corrections. Denial was in, repentance was out. To err was human, to admit it was a strategic blunder.

Who can forget that moment in the presidential debates when a citizen asked the president: "Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision and what you did to correct it." The president couldn't come up with a single boo-boo.

Nevertheless, we -- the editorial we -- come to the end of the calendar with the impulse to clean our slate. Once again we present our slips, slides, and embarrassments in a list of Media Culpas.

We begin with politics. Our errors were nothing compared to those of exit pollsters. We did not declare John Kerry a winner before he was the loser. Unlike Democrat honcho Bob Shrum, we did not ask to be the first to call him Mr. President.

But along the merry way, we described Kerry as the man elected to lead his party because he was electable. Hmmm. And after counting how many times the Democrats used the word "values" during their convention, we predicted that this could be the year the blue party "put the buzz back in the buzzword" and wrenched the values debate back from the Republicans. As Santa would say, "ho, ho, ho."

We also described John Kerry as the "third Catholic nominated for president," after Al Smith and Jack Kennedy. A handful of historians added in Charles O'Connor, a candidate in the free-for-all presidential race of 1872. We're not sure if the Straight-Out Democrats -- don't ask -- qualify as a full-fledged party, but we will give O'Connor his place in history along with his 29,489 votes.

As for Kerry's military service, we described him as a soldier. Landlubbers "R" Us. A boatload of Navy retirees insisted that only the Army has soldiers, the Navy has sailors. From now on, we'll refer to Lieutenant Kerry as a naval officer if our e-mailers will direct their considerable error ire at the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Now let us apologize to our foremothers. In celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we said there were only nine women in Congress at the time. In fact, there were 14 in Congress -- 12 in the House and two in the Senate.

As for anniversaries, how is it possible that we described the "two-month anniversary" of a marriage? The word anniversary derives from "annus" meaning a year and "versum" meaning to turn. There's no such thing as a monthly anniversary. As our high school Latin teacher never said: Veni, vidi, oy vey.   Continued...

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