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'Rock Heads' Ran Newspaper That Panned 'Gettysburg Address'

The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., has gotten attention around the nation this week for retracting an editorial that ran in 1863.

It's not just that the retraction came 150 years later. No, the Patriot-News is being talked and written about because the editorial it now regrets was one that panned President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

That's right, in November 1863 the anti-Lincoln Patriot & Union (as the newspaper was then known) wrote about those who had spoken 5 days before at the ceremony on Gettysburg's battlefield. Of Lincoln's speech it said:

"We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of."

As All Things Considered host Audie Cornish says, "the Patriot & Union failed to recognize the speech's momentous importance, timeless eloquence and lasting significance."

But 150 years later, the newspaper believes that "no mere utterance, then or now, could do justice to the soaring heights of language Mr. Lincoln reached that day."

Friday, the newspaper's deputy opinion editor, Matthew Zencey, addressed an interesting question: why now? He tells Sydney Smith of iMediaEthics that:

"I hope you are taking our 'retraction' in the spirit we intended, which was to have a little fun with a less-than-stellar chapter of our newspaper's history. ... Really, this isn't a question of journalism ethics, as would be the case with a serious retraction — it was more a way of using the 150th anniversary to say, with a wink, 'Gee, can you believe what rock heads ran this outfit 150 years ago?' "

If you haven't read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in a while, here's a link.

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