Oh My God, There’s a Typo on the Front Page
This entry was written in response to the issue of The Eagle that came out Sept. 28, 2010.
It was after a night of unease over a typo (story below) that I decided to start this blog. How can I come clean to The Eagle’s readers? There’s no area to comment about typos in headlines. No place to direct your vitriol after catching an oxford comma. No place to ask about the decisions made about stories.
In a way this blog is my response to the natural human desire for forgiveness. No more typos or bad decisions eating away at my conscience. As a sinner to the newspaper gods, I want to be able to lay myself at the holy altar of our readers.
I invite people to send me letters and ask questions about our decisions. I will answer good, thoughtful, constructive questions. I will answer honestly.
In the meantime, I’ll keep this blog updated with accounts of the good and the bad moments, the interesting and dull.
There are good days and bad days at a newspaper. Tuesday started as a good day.
Our newspapers came early, so for the first time since I’ve taken over as editor, AU was able to wake up to a fresh Eagle on the stands.
After a 6:30 a.m. wake up call and three hours delivering newspapers in early morning drizzle, I hustled back to my Connecticut Avenue apartment, jacked up the A/C and “napped” for four hours.
After rubbing my eyes open and looking clearly at the newspaper, I was pleased. We’ve had problems with our printer’s quality, but this issue everything looked cleaner. The color was true. The blacks and whites were crisper. And though some photos were still muddy, it was an improvement.
You’re often too stressed to notice the good days. So on Tuesday, after my epic nap, after some positive feedback on the issue, I was enjoying myself.
After every issue the editors of all newspapers have their “oh no” moment. It’s the moment where you wonder “Did I check that headline!?” Invariably the answer is yes. Of course you checked the headline. You checked every headline, every photo caption, every pull quote, every page number and every byline. You’ve fact-checked articles as best you could, you’ve edited for grammar and for style. You’ve tried to make articles as interesting as possible. Of course you checked that headline.
You spend at least 30 hours a week working on each issue. Add the random phone calls, e-mails and meetings and you’re pushing 40 to 50 hours each week thinking, dreaming and worrying about The Eagle.
But Monday night I didn’t have my “oh no” moment. We’d finished an hour before deadline and made it out before 1 a.m. for the first time this year. I had checked and double checked. The issue looked perfect.
Then … the text message. In not these exact words … “Charlie, there’s a typo in one of the cover photo teasers.”
Stomach sinks. World spins. Resist the urge to sprint out of class and grab the nearest copy of the newspaper. Instead, sit there agitated and angry. Waiting for a break in class.
“F***,” I thought.
“F***! F***! F***! F***! F***! F***!”
Maybe the text message was wrong. People are stupid. If I’m stupid enough to miss a front-cover typo, can’t they be stupid enough to think there’s a typo?
No. It was there. The second “i” in “dedication” incorrectly dropped. We had plugged our story on the “SIS building dedicaton.” Which isn’t a real word.
Coming to terms with these errors is hard. On one hand, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you are incompetent. It’s hard to know that hawk-eyed readers out there will find the typo and think you are incompetent.
The other day I remember chuckling to myself at a typo on another local college newspaper’s front page. “For all our faults,” I thought to myself, “at least we don’t have typos on our front page.”
But pride goeth before the fall, right?
Charlie Szold is the editor in chief of The Eagle, American University’s student newspaper. He has worked at The Eagle in some capacity for his four years at AU, including a stint as managing news editor his junior year. Charlie is a print journalism major with a minor in political science. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter.
Posted in Hail to the Chief