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ROGERS — Newspaper errors have a way of living on for eternity

Mark Rogers writes a column about social media and hosts a blog at http://www.newsonaut.com.

COLUMN — A newspaper mistake briefly made the rounds on Twitter last week — the results of a survey showed both answers as Yes.

It was kind of funny because the person who tweeted a picture of the error asked whether this was an indication of the decline of newspapers. The answer had to be Yes because, apparently, that was only answer available. And that’s the way Twitter is — have a chuckle then move on to the next thing.

Rogers, Mark hedA more serious answer, of course, would be No. Someone made a mistake, just as people have been making mistakes since the time humans evolved to develop cognitive abilities.

Cavemen no doubt had inaccurate depictions in their cave paintings. Egyptian hieroglyphics could be riddled with misplaced birds for all we know. When Gutenberg invented the printing press, he also invented a way for blunders to be multiplied and kept as souvenirs.

The trouble with newspaper mistakes is that they have a permanence that makes them all the more cringeworthy. Historians hundreds of years from now will search through futuristic archives, find them and have a laugh at the paper’s expense long after it has ceased to exist.

The Internet has made things worse, allowing errors to live on in listicles so that mistakes by local papers become global phenomena for years to come. Type “funniest newspaper” into Google, and you get suggestions such as funniest newspaper typos and funniest newspaper errors.

I have to admit: they are funny. I just hope that one of mine never shows up.

But seriously, an argument could be made that there are more mistakes than ever in the news wherever the printed word is found. Misspelled words are not at all uncommon in newspapers, on the Internet or on television.

A classic headline error that will live through the ages, thanks to Google.

A classic headline error that will live through the ages, thanks to Google.

Unrelenting cutbacks mean there are fewer journalists in newsrooms and fewer eyeballs to catch mistakes before they are published. I can remember a couple of times when errors got by editors and were caught by a pressman. Yes, there was a time when newspapers had presses in the same building.

Nowadays, many reporters are expected to write a story and publish it straight to the Internet. And it shows — awkward sentence structure, misplaced words, and obvious typos are all there. In the past, an editor would have corrected them.

The problem with editing your own copy is that the brain often sees what you meant to write instead of what you actually did write. Even having editors isn’t a guarantee that flubs will be fixed. These people need to be trained and experienced — it’s easier to make a good catch when you’ve seen pretty much every kind of mistake that’s ever been made.

News organizations are well aware that errors — even something as minor as misspelling “forty” as “fourty” — hurt their credibility. After all, if they couldn’t get that right, then maybe they’re getting more important things wrong as well. The facts themselves can be called into question.

Journalists hate mistakes every bit as much as readers, but they need support. And that’s been slowly dwindling away.

Mark Rogers is a Kamloops journalist who publishes a blog at http://www.newsonaut.com. He can be reached at mark@newsonaut.com.

About Mel Rothenburger (9238 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on ROGERS — Newspaper errors have a way of living on for eternity

  1. Allison Ryder // March 15, 2015 at 2:13 PM // Reply

    Dear Mr. Rogers,
    I read your article with interest as my pet peeve is the misspelled words in our local newspaper the Kamloops This Week. They are often and quite glaring. I can understand the change in how a story is published, however, I do believe that the finished product that is offered to the public is a reflection of how much integrity a newspaper has. I am afraid I lost faith in the Kamloops This Week as a credible paper due to the many many errors they print on an almost weekly basis. I think one should have pride in their work and as this newspaper is in fact our only newspaper in Kamloops, I am even more chagrined at how we must look to visitors or others who may come across the paper. It is a shame that such errors are becoming increasingly acceptable.
    Sincerely
    Allison Ryder

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