or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bad Blood

As I was heading to work this morning, I caught a glimpse of the front page of a local newspaper, the Times & Transcript. The lead story was about a Mason-Dixon situation in Salisbury, a town just west of Moncton: you can read the news story here, though I can't imagine why you would want to. It wasn't the story that grabbed me: it was the headline, in big fat 80-point type (I measured). I knew that nobody could possibly believe me if I didn't provide proof, so here it is:

"Fued". They actually put that on the front page.

A newspaper with no copy-editor, no proof-reader, no editor of any sort, not even a spellchecker to its name. That is a sad, sad thing. I wrote about such headlines before; they're probably not especially rare. They still shock me, though, because they ought never to happen. Ever.

And just so you don't think this is an isolated incident, here's a sub-head from the front page of the People & Places section of the very same edition of the very same newspaper.

"Moutain". Boy, they were on a roll last night.


Blogger Granny J said...

Don't be so quick to judge! I recall the time I was editor of a small neighborhood weekly in Chicago. I had closed the paper, gone home and forgotten about it. When I arrived at the office next AM, the forman at the print shop was on the line with profuse apologies. About what? About the boo-boo in the headline. I scanned the little paper again. Couldn't see what he was talking about. Showed it to my boss, who was always far more concerned with advertising than with edit content. He saw nothing. Finally I gave up & asked what was the problem. Seems a letter had been left out of the big, screaming headline word WOODLAWN. The final "N". Yet when I looked at the word, my mind just automatically put the "N" in its place! A fascinating lesson for me.

Sunday, September 30, 2007 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Three things:

First, I would cut a small neighbourhood weekly a whole lot more slack than I'll cut am actual city newspaper. I have worked at one of each: there are going to be some errors in the small paper, because there just isn't enough staff to go around. But at a larger paper, a commercial enterprise? They have, or should have, dedicated copy-editors and proofreaders, and there ought to be an absolute minimum of typos, grammatical mistakes, and errors of fact. There definitely shouldn't be any in a front-page headline.

Second, at any modern newspaper from the smallest to the largest, there is just no excuse for not spellchecking things, even headlines. None. It won't catch all the mistakes, but it will certainly keep things like "fued" and "Woodlaw" from showing up on the front page.

And third, as I have said so many times, you can't edit your own writing. Nobody on Earth can, not the best writer or the most conscientious editor. Once you've written it, someone else has to cast their eyes over it, because they're going to notice the missing "-n-" that your brain supplies.

Sunday, September 30, 2007 9:17:00 PM  

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