Damned public education system impacting WWW and confusing NYT.

Clark Hoyt via NYTimes.com 

H/T to Michelle Malkin

It’s horrible, I tell you.  The product of the public education system working on the WWW is leading to the errant spelling habits of New York Times staff, as one might come to believe from NYT Editor Clark Hoyt.

The fact is, The New York Times misspells names at a ferocious rate — famous names, obscure names, names of the dead in their obituaries, names of the living in their wedding announcements, household names from Hollywood, names of Cabinet officers, sports figures, the shoe bomber, the film critic for The Daily News in New York and, astonishingly and repeatedly, Sulzberger, the name of the family that owns The New York Times.

The Times has given Gen. Douglas MacArthur the middle initial A at least 25 times since 1987, though he had no middle name and didn’t use A, B, C or S, all of which have been ascribed to him.

So, you ask, what’s the big deal? Doesn’t The Times have more important things to worry about, like getting it right on Iraq and Iran and the presidential campaign?

Yes, a great newspaper has to get the big things right, but it also has to pay fanatical attention to thousands of details every day to prevent the kinds of mistakes that start readers wondering, “If they can’t spell his name right, what else is wrong with the story?”

Or, as Joe Lelyveld said in 2000, when he was executive editor of The Times, “When it comes to accuracy issues, tolerance and the larger view can be dangerous to our health.”

At a retreat of senior editors of The Times, Lelyveld called on them to “sweat the small stuff.” He bemoaned “the malignancy of misspelled names,” pointing out, among other things, that The Times had misspelled the first name of Madeleine Albright, who was then secretary of state, 49 times, despite running three corrections.

Unfortunately, the cancer appears to be getting worse. When Lelyveld spoke in mid-September, there had been 198 corrections for misspelled names in The Times so far that year. Through yesterday, still in early August, there had been 269 this year. And the mistakes keep coming.   more…

PowerLine notes, “Shakespeare couldn’t spell either; but then, he was writing fiction.”  Now, there is no reason to start associating The Bard with the NYT, even like that. 

What are some of the excuses:

¶Reporters say they were operating from memory and didn’t bother to check. That’s what one writer said after misspelling the name of Julianna Margulies, the television actress.

Okay.  They’re lazy.  Check.

¶Reporters assume that a name is spelled the “normal” way and don’t check. That’s what happened with the obituary of Neal Shine, the former publisher of The Detroit Free Press, whose first name was not Neil, as it appeared in the paper. Shine hired me in 1968, when he was the city editor of The Free Press, and he would get infuriated by errors like this.

Okay.  They’re lazy and believe somone’s name should be spelled the way they like it.  Check.

¶Reporters checking names on the Internet are carelessly misled by other people’s misspellings.

Okay.  They’re lazy, believe they’re right and are easily duped.  Wait.  This is starting to sound like TNR.

Craig Whitney of the NYT offers up another “theory”.

“Their minds are on higher things,” he said. “They’re looking at the bigger story, and they think they can’t bother with details like that.” Besides, he added, they expect misspellings “will be caught on the copy desk.”

“Higher things”, like pushing an agenda, maybe?  “Can’t bother with details”?  What is the truth, without the details?  Mistakes “will be caught on the copy desk”?  Wouldn’t it be a good idea to catch as many of those as you can on the front, instead of waiting for someone to, hopefully, catch in on the back?

Look.  It’s simple. When my kids try to shift blame to another child for something they did wrong, I quickly point out, “Little Johnny did not make you do that.  You chose to do it yourself.” 

We are responsible for our own mistakes.  Don’t blame the WWW or anyone else, if you:

  • Can’t spell
  • Are too lazy to look up the correct spelling
  • Believe it should be spelled the way you would have done it 

In other words, if you mess up, ‘fess up, period!


One Response to “Damned public education system impacting WWW and confusing NYT.”

  1. class-factotum Says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if they would start paying attention to things like “comprise” and “compose,” “lay” and “lie” and “insight” and “incite?” It’s pretty clear to me that no one working on my local paper (The Memphis Commercial Appeal) has a degree in English.

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