Weekend Column – Errors Of Errors

Jun 15, 2015 by

One thing you quickly learn working at a newspaper is when a mistake occurs in the paper, everyone in town will know about it.

And they will make sure you know that they know that you screwed something up. Most times, there’s no animosity, more of a “hey, you need to fix this,” and I go “ugh” and they smile.

Let’s face it. It’s all there in black and white. Sometimes in color, but usually it involves black ink on white paper.

There are various types of errors, much like sins, I guess. Errors of fact, errors of typos, errors of omission, errors of errors, and errors of “haven’t you learned the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their,’ ‘sight,’ ‘cite’ and ‘site,’ ‘sewer and sewerage,’ and ‘homicide’ and ‘murder’ yet?”

On that latter one, I had an editor who would, to use a technical term, have a conniption if you ever wrote that someone was murdered. Only a jury could determine that, he would say, pulling out an assortment of style books.Errors of fact put me in a similar conniption. Those are when we say someone was guilty when they were not, or just this week, when we call one of the new pieces of art in downtown Newnan “Go Green.” Problem is, that piece is actually called “Memory Lane.” Or when we switch a photo and speech of the valedictorian and salutatorian at one of the high schools.

And those errors are because of …?

I don’t know. But I can assure you questions are asked and I am rarely satisfied with the answer. Errors of fact have no place in a newspaper. And that is one area we put all our effort into ensuring doesn’t happen.

Other errors are just forgetting something or being human. Using the word “aid” when you meant “aide.” And no, spell and grammar checks are not perfect, either, and don’t always catch those types of errors.

Each of our newspaper pages is the equivalent of 120 inches of copy. There are roughly 30 words to an inch, so, using the old math, 30 X 120 = 3,600. In other words, there’s the potential to have 3,600 words on a single page of newsprint.

Odds are there’s going to be a typo, maybe a word left out. “University West Georgia” is not correct. It’s “University of West Georgia.”

About those errors of omission. I have come to learn that leaving out the name of one’s daughter or grandson in the honors graduation listing is really, really bad. I know this because it happened to two employees here at the newspaper. And I am still hearing about it.

Rest assured. None of this is intentional.

Case in point. A couple of weeks ago there was a group of photos about a young man who let his hair grow out for about two years and then cut it and donated it for cancer victims.

Great photos. However, the story – about 750 words – was missing. And in one of the photos that showed this young man, a couple of his friends and his teacher, we said they went to Welch Elementary.

This was incorrect. I know that because the kid in question and his friends and that teacher all were at Brooks Elementary.

And I know that because I’ve met that teacher, those friends have slept over at my house, and the kid who cut his hair is the Youngest SON of Thunder.

We ran it again last week, this time including the actual story to go along with all those photos. And we also pointed out they went to Brooks.

So yes, even I am the victim of an error. But at least we all know it wasn’t intentional this time. Right?

Until next time.

 

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