PENNED BY A JOURNO: Make a typo and the errorists win

2016-06-14 06:00

Working in the newspaper industry is an unforgiving career choice. Any mistake you might make, down to a typo caused by your slow ring finger, is there for all to see.

The embarrassment of having your mistake as front page news is one of the reasons journalists check facts and dates and see every story triple checked. But we are still human and prone to errors.

Worse still is that newsrooms around the world are shrinking. More people are wearing more than one hat under demanding deadlines. Gone are the days that the journalist were only responsible for getting and filing their story, because the photographer, page planner, layout artist and various copy-editors would see to the rest.

At People’s Post, our journalists, on average, work on two editions, covering dozens of suburbs. They’re responsible to fill these editions with both articles and photos, from back to front, every week while attending meetings and events late at night and over weekends. And then there are the two to three hour long (sometimes half a day) council meetings that take place at least once a month.

Most of these stories are gathered and written over three or four days for a weekly deadline. Some journalists also have extra production duties – page planning, subbing and layout – added to their workload on deadline days. As anyone who works in that kind of high-pressured industry will understand: it’s no easy feat.

And they still do their work with integrity and honesty, with a smile on their faces and a kind word for any reader they might meet.

In each story, we have to guard against a range of ethical principles, ensuring fairness to both parties, and objectivity. With the amount of misinformation we sift through, there are much worse errors we could make than a spelling or grammar error.

To prevent those nasty little spelling and grammar gremlins, our editor and subeditor check anything between 120 and 160 pages in our 10 zoned editions – in a day and a half. To fill just a quarter of a page is between 350 and 500 words. You can do the maths to understand the sheer magnitude of their work.

If you were to look at our error rate (we’d confidently put it at less than 1%), we’re doing better than the airline industry.

And often after triple checking every article, as was the case last week, an error slips through and is spotted only after it has been sent to the printer (“Library peddles for power”, People’s Post False Bay, 7 June).

And when it comes to the cost of calling back a page to fix that error – unless it’s a factual error that will land us in hot water with the ombudsman or in court – we’d rather swallow our pride and take the flack from our loyal errorists.

We might sound superhuman, but we’re really not. That’s why we appreciate every reader that alerts us to these errors.

But telling a journalist they aren’t qualified, or shouldn’t have their jobs over a spelling or grammar error, is uncalled for.

We’ve put our hearts into giving you the best work we can. So when you notice we’ve slipped up, be kind to us – we’re doing the best we can to bring you the best quality news.

Peddle vs Pedal: “Pedal always relates to bicycles, pianos, organs, boats, looms, sewing machines, and other machines. The pedals are the foot-operated components. The word also functions as a verb meaning to operate pedals. Peddle is a verb meaning to sell or to travel about selling goods. It often refers to the sale of illicit goods.” –

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