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Mistakes

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mr. X, Jun 15, 2006.

  1. PaperDoll

    PaperDoll Well-Known Member

    I'm a reporter who copy edits when necessary (though I don't design. I don't know Quark well enough!)  I'm shocked that your reporters are turning in stories with so many errors (but less so than when I was a fact-checker at a major weekly magazine.)  Part of my job is to get the facts right before I file, and I ought to have a pretty darn good grasp of grammar as well. 

    But I guess I have high standards.  :(   And an understaffed desk which often doesn't (seem to) read anything.
     
  2. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Good point. When I wrote, I thought that was the most important thing I could do: fact-check/spell-check/grammar-check before turning it in. I don't know, maybe some writers feel like others will or should catch their mistakes? But I was obsessive about my stories -- if it had my name on it, I was going to be damn sure I had complete control over its accuracy ... or lack thereof. I didn't trust anybody -- still don't trust anybody -- to do a better job than myself when it comes to editing my own work. But then, I'm self-critical to the extreme. There's ALWAYS something I could do better.

    I know -- for a fact! -- that I made mistakes, some of them big ones, but I also know that I didn't turn in anything without at least checking in first. Sometimes an error gets past you; it happens. But to turn in a story with multiple spelling/grammar errors ... I just don't get why anyone would do that. It's your name on it -- have some pride in what you do, you know?
     
  3. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    A lot of times, buck, the grammar/usage error isn't a lack-of-pride sort of thing. It's a hole in the writer's education.

    Many writers, there is some specific thing that they just don't get. You'd be stunned by how many can't nail down "its" and "it's".

    "They" and "it" gets some people. "Their" and "they're" ... an interns' favorite. Using "a couple hits" rather than "a couple of hits" is another. Or "said Jones" rather than "Jones said".

    And I'm convinced somebody in the mid-'80s became determined to remove commas from their students' copy. Because not nearly enough of them are used now. Why would "Hey Jim" ever be acceptable? But it's the way a good number of writers do it.

    It's something they learned the wrong way and never re-learned. Of course, a good copy editor should never miss one of those.
     
  4. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Not to put too fine a point in this general discussion, and it's not really about a "mistake," but my thinking on the necessity of a comma between "Hey" and "Jim" has changed a bit over the years.

    To me, it's a "sound" issue. And I'm not sure there's always a pause called for there.

    I don't know what the grammar gods would say, but that's my take these days.
     
  5. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Hey ... Jim.

    Not HeyJim.

    Comma.

    Stop confusing the masses, SF.

    :)
     
  6. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Hey Shottie, I'm still not so sure.

    I didn't pause there. :)
     
  7. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Fair enough, shot, but that brings up another point. If, in theory, copy editors are catching these and changing these regularly -- shouldn't a writer notice these changes in how he turns his copy in and how his copy appears in the paper? God, I noticed every comma splice, every changed word, every tiny edit that was added into my story. And if something was changed, I wanted to know why. Mostly, it was because I was doing something wrong. But I'd like to think that those mistakes stopped happening so much. Again, I'm a little OCD about my work.

    Now, as a copy editor, I don't mind telling a writer about regular errors that they make in style or grammar at times. But I'm not going to speak up about every little thing, because nobody likes that. On the other hand, I don't think the desk should have to keep changing seemingly minor errors because of a "hole in their education." ... "Their/they're/there" or "it's/its" or "more than/less than" or time/date/place ... these are things you need to learn as a writer, things that will apply anywhere you'll ever work as a writer. These are basic technical tools of the job, right? And sure, you can overlook it with some people if they consistently show brilliance in other aspects. But most of us aren't that brilliant -- I'm certainly not -- so if you don't get the basics right, then what's the point? Or is that just me?
     
  8. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Honestly, buck, I don't have an answer for that.

    I know that the people who I correct on a regular basis ... the same stuff continues to happen. Which would lead me to conclude that they believe they're right and I'm wrong.
     
  9. Kato

    Kato Well-Known Member

    We have a universal desk with one copy editor/designer assigned to sports each night. For awhile, the copy desk chief instisted that every story and every brief be turned in to the desk with a suggested headline, that included every little brief and and roundup that the already shorthanded sports staff was scrambling to get over the phones, written up, merged and re-read between 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. It didn't take us long to figure that once a suggested head went on, not much else was read. But the desk had no problem chuckling to Letterman or watching the end of whatever pro game was wrapping up.

    As a writer, I'll take full responsiblity for every error that appears in something I produced. However, when I see something that should have been caught somewhere in the editing process, it's a little tough to swallow.

    My wife is a former editor who loves to take the red pen to anything in print. When errors appear in our paper, I often blame the reporters first for making the initial mistake (and I've made a doozy or two myself). But she's very quick to come down on the editors. Interesting.
     
  10. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    At my last stop, where I was a reporter, our Page 1 editor would edit mistakes IN to my stories. On a couple occasions she'd have me check my story on the front after she edited it, and she clearly had misspelled words. (Did I mention she never used spellcheck?) If I believed in black helicopters, I'd also believe that she intentionally put the errors into the stories so we couldn't use them as clips. That's how messed up the shop was.

    When I look at a proof, my goal is to make sure it leaves the newsroom without a mistake. When I look at a neg, I want to make sure it heads to the press error free. I regularly have resent negs very close to deadline since I noticed something small -- a byline not adhering to style, spacing, etc. I have no problem with it. One of my desk mates flipped out when I did it one night, and I kindly informed him that we still had time to hit the clock and our job was to put out, to the best of our abilities, a mistake-free newspaper.
     
  11. Mr. X

    Mr. X Member

    Here's a correction from Wednesday's Los Angeles Times:

    Baseball: An article in Sports on June 7 quoted pitcher Luke Hochevar, drafted by the Kansas City Royals, as referring to "Scott" — Scott Boras, his agent — when in fact he used the word "God." Here is the correct quote: "God had a plan in this, and his master plan definitely worked. It was tough through it — you go through it and you fight it — but when it all comes down to it, God has a plan for you, and he definitely worked a miracle in my case."
     
  12. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    .. there's a difference? :)
     
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