Misidentified Black People in Iowa

We’ve blogged in the past about the Undercover Black Man blog and its regular feature called Misidentified Black Person of the Week.

Last week, I had the singular good (bad?) fortune to come across two instances of misidentification, in two different newspapers, within about 5 minutes of each other.

The first was in a USA Today article about New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress; the accompanying photograph showed “Burress [getting] both feet down inbounds on a catch inside the Falcons’ 1-yard line.” But the receiver who’s doing the toe-dance in the picture is actually Amani Toomer.

The second article, from the Sioux City Journal, was an A.P. report about Sean “Diddy” Combs being accused of assault at a New York nightclub. The picture, as best as I can tell, is indeed Combs; but the caption read simply, “Name.” (On the other hand, the Journal had a pair of really interesting front-page articles, one about the Iowa GOP moving up its caucuses to Jan. 3 — the night of the Orange Bowl — and the other about a corn mold that has shown up in “Siouxland” and may severely affect the corn crop.)

The good news is that the online version of the USA Today article ran a picture that was indeed Burress. The Sioux City Journal Web site required registration, so I didn’t check if it, too, had fixed its error. This is plainly one of the advantages of online journalism: you can fix your mistakes as fast and as often as you like.

And what, you may ask, was I doing in Iowa, reading the Sioux City Journal?

I had a lecture at Morningside College, which turned out to be a wonderful place full of smart, interesting, and kind people, from the president (John Reynders) to the faculty to the students and alumni.

My trip to Iowa was particularly rewarding because I’d never been to Iowa before. I would like to visit all 50 states before I die, and while I got off to a very late start in my traveling, I am getting closer. On this trip, I spoke in Iowa, slept in Nebraska, and drove across the state line in the morning to buy a South Dakota lottery ticket. I know, I know: that’s not really much of a visit; but I’m going to count it nonetheless.

This leaves me with only 6 states to visit. If you had to guess the least-visited state in the U.S., what would you guess? These folks say it’s North Dakota. I spent a week in Fargo a couple years back, so I took care of that one. Here’s what’s left on my list: Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Montana, and Oregon. Of those, the ones I most want to visit are Alaska and Oregon, by a long shot.


Interesting very interesting


I say come to Oregon next; let's have a Freakonomics party!


If you cannot get to Alaska soon, check out the movies:
Insomnia, with Al Pacino
Into the Wild, now in theaters
Grizzly Man
They have great shots of Alaska.


What?! Hawaii isn't even your top 2? I've been there once before, and it was so beautiful and peaceful. It was one of only 2 vacations I've taken that at the end of them I was truly sad they were over.


Arkansas isn't so bad. I've been to Little Rock a bunch of times.
Best steak I've ever eaten was at Doe's Eat Place in Little Rock.

Hey, anyone... what's to do on a Saturday in Charlotte, NC? I'm going to a wedding in the evening but have the whole day to kill.


Well, you are an East Coast elitist. Hawaii is far and away the most interesting state in the Union. The beaches etc are fine, but Hawaii has a unique native culture; it's completely unlike any other state. Alaska may also be very different; that's the state that's next on my list of must visits.


In defense of the Sioux City Journal, it sounds more like someone neglected to fill in the caption in a template that defaulted to "Name". As a reporter yourself, I am sure you know how much minor things like that sneak by, even at the Times.

That said, the Burress/Toomer snafu is embarrassing.


Obviously, the Combs thing wasn't a misidentification, the caption guy couldn't figure out what to call him.

Is he still Sean "Puffy" Combs or is it "Puff Daddy" or is it S. "Puff" Combs or what?

Wes Hartline

You can skip Alabama and Mississippi... Unless you can go to a football game at Ole Miss and party in the Grove with the fans. I guess the best thing about Alabama would be it's civil rights history. Other than that, maybe you should just visit Oregon twice.


My family made it to all 50 before I went to college. My favorites were Alaska and Utah, both for the national parks. We visited a lot of parks, and Glacier Bay was the best of the bunch. Also, whenever you make it to Oregon you have to see Crater Lake.


"The Sioux City Journal Web site required registration, so I didn't check if it, too, had fixed its error."

Stephen: www.bugmenot.com


To number 9, he didn't say he had never been to Alabama. If you haven't been to Alabama since the civil rights era, you should try it again. We've learned to read (better than you).


I'd say the least visited states are Wyoming, Idaho and Iowa


A couple of weeks the Post misidentified Salma Hayek as Jack Nicholson. Apparently new moms look like haggard old men.

Mike S

I'd argue either Wyoming, Montana or North Dakota. Alaska is a pretty popular vacation spot, while I haven't heard many speaking of week long vacations to the states mentioned above.

To #12 - thanks for a laugh!

Diane Francis

Can someone explain why Iowa and why New Hampshire, neither of which resemble the U.S. from any standpoint?
Confused in Canada
Diane Francis


I agree that it may very well be North Dakota. I, of course, grew up only 25 miles from there so it wasn't a problem.
I had 49 of the 50 covered at age 21 (still missing is Hawaii). The 49th for me was South Carolina.


We're eager to see you in Oregon!
Speaking of how online news sources can correct their mistakes as fast as they make them, the morning the Larry Craig story broke, I swear I saw an Associated Press story at the Comcast landing page headlined "Romney Backs Away from Craig." Within moments, and before I could find a witness, it had been changed to "Romney Distances Himself from Craig."

Paul Clapham

Wyoming least visited, Mike S? It has Yellowstone National Park in it, one of the most visited parks in the US.


Iowa and Morningside College were very glad to have you here!