In a nearly 112-years-overdue, story-length correction, James Barron of the New York Times uncovers an impressive amount of detail about numerous errors the Times and others made in accounts of one man’s life, including in his obituary, and the mystery surrounding some of the facts in those accounts. But the real mystery to me is this: Why is this story more engaging than almost anything else I’ve seen in the Times in recent times? Is it merely the lure of a mystery? Or is it the look into the kind of details about a person’s life that we don’t usually get in the typical story — that I would have read all the way through a story about a modern person if it were like this?
The Bristol Herald-Courier has been treading some similar ground recently with stories about unsolved murders (the first was about a nurse’s death in Chilhowie, Va., and just this past weekend there was a three-parter, Outlaws or Inlaws). Murder mysteries have proven appeal, but is it the mystery or the people that draws an audience?