Viewpoint: Make no mistake“Congratulations, Magaging (sic) Editor!” That was the kind message a friend left me on my voicemail while I was on vacation late last month.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
“Congratulations, Magaging (sic) Editor!”
That was the kind message a friend left me on my voicemail while I was on vacation late last month.
I was fishing on a beautiful lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains with my wife and her grandfather just a few days after I found out I was named the new managing editor of the Woodbury Bulletin (weird timing, I know, but it was a vacation we planned months ago), and already I had people pulling shenanigans on me, or so I thought.
It wasn’t until I returned to the office the following week, fresh off a very relaxing vacation out East that I realized my friend wasn’t joking about the misspelling of my new title.
In the July 29 edition of the Bulletin, there it was in print. The headline on the business page: “Long named as the new magaging (sic) editor of the Bulletin.”
What a way to make a first impression on your readers.
I can only imagine what those of you who did catch the mistake thought of my debut issue in my new role at the paper. He can’t even spell his own title correctly. How can we trust him with the news?
It turns out the spelling error was not a twisted prank the editorial staff decided to pull on me while I was on vacation. It was an honest mistake that none of the staffers in the newsroom caught before the paper was sent to press. But how could they have missed it? I muttered to myself before deciding how to address the situation.
The only saving grace I could find in this incident is a news story I read once about a study performed that determined people tend to read the first and last letter of a common word and usually over look the letters in the middle regardless of whether they are placed in the correct order or misspelled. Let me see here – MAGAGING. The ‘M’ was in the right place. So was the second ‘G’ (or in this particular case, the third ‘G’). Maybe all of our readers would gloss over the misspelling the same way our staff did. Nope. It didn’t take more than a full day back at the office before a kind reader politely pointed out the mistake to me in an email.
Needless to say this little episode left me with a little egg on my face but not too much skin off my teeth, because I realized what a motivator this example could provide for me and the other folks here in the newsroom.
The bottom line is this: We all make mistakes. The key is to learn from them.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. But when you’re in the news business you can’t afford to make mistakes. Spelling errors or fact errors.
So I decided to bite the bullet and frame the new story and display it prominently at my desk as motivation for who those stumble upon it.
And as I look at that headline one more time, I want to make this promise to our readers: we’ll never make anotner mitsake in this neswpaper agian.