Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dallas Morning News Vilifies Jay-Z

One of the side-effects of the ever-changing media landscape is that various media companies are increasingly operating outside of their comfort zones. Instead of plodding away in the niches they've mastered over a great many years, some media companies think that because the Internet exists, they have a license to dabble willy-nilly in all kinds of newfangled media. The Dallas Morning News launched in print in 1885. Now, 125 years later, the newspaper is dabbling in video content--and screwing up as the discerning eye of Stan Kost recently revealed.

In an e-mail, Kost wrote the Proofreader:

I don't think that Jay-Z is a comic book villain, but The Dallas Morning News may think so. In a recent video about LeBron James and Jay-Z, the latter is described as a "Music mongul" - I'm sure that they meant "mogul". After all, Mongul is this comic book villain.
As you can see in the screen shot highlighted above, The Dallas Morning News F'd up the word mogul in the video's lower third. Stan--you, the Proofreader, any other individual with the smallest grain of cultural literacy and even (as evidenced by the caption in the above screen shot) The Dallas Morning News knows that Jay-Z is a music mogul, not a tyrannical comic book villain (though parallels between the two could certainly be drawn--fodder for a different blog) as this silly typo suggests.

The lesson that should be heeded here, by all newspapers trying to produce video content and by traditional T.V. news outlets, is to proofread those lower thirds and other graphics like it's your job, because, guess what? It is.

The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistake.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bad Spelling in North Jersey Corrected

Tenafly, New Jersey. It's not a city or a town. It's not a village or even a hamlet. It's a borough. But just because it's a mere borough doesn't mean its name deserves anything less than accurate spelling on government-issued road signage. After all, Manhattan is a borough and no one would ever allow an official sign to be posted that depicts a misspelling of Manhattan. Tenafly deserves the same courtesy, yet recently, had been deprived of that simple dignity on a sign in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey--until the Proofreader did something about it.

As you can see in the highlighted picture above, this directional road sign situated at the intersection of Hudson Terrace and Palisade Avenue featured a glaring misspelling: "Teanfly." The name Tenafly traces its roots back to 1688 and is derived from Dutch words meaning "ten swamps" after settlers named it "Tiene Vly." That's actually a cool bit of trivia behind the borough's name, something that shouldn't be sullied by incompetent use of the language. What about Teanfly?

Teanfly is derived from sloppy writing and careless proofreading and means nothing--not nearly as cool as Tenafly. How does a mistake like this happen anyway, given that so many sets of eyes view the copy written on the sign before it gets posted? Even the guy who physically put the sign up didn't notice Tenafly was misspelled? Or did he notice the error, ignore it and hang a faulty sign without notifying his superiors?

We may never know. After discovering the error, the Proofreader contacted Peter Rustin, mayor of Tenafly, who confirmed that the sign was the responsibility of Bergen County. In early 2009, when the mistake was brought to the attention of Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney, a self-described stickler for accuracy, he was reluctant to speculate on its origin.

According to County Executive McNerney, one man, whom he declined to name, makes that particular type of directional road signs for all the counties in the state. County Executive McNerney was unable to say if Bergen County sent the sign maker flawed copy or whether the sign maker screwed up Bergen County's copy. Either way, despite all the opportunities for the mistake to have been noticed and a new sign to have been made, the defective sign was still put up.

As much as that apparent breakdown feeds the perception of government ineptitude, once the mistake was brought to County Executive McNerney's attention, the county executive, to his credit, leaped into action and ordered a new sign. A few weeks later, the directional sign with the misspelling was taken down and replaced with a brand new sign that featured the correct spelling of Tenafly, as you can see in the picture below.

When contacted by e-mail for comment on the posting of the new sign, Mayor Rustin responded, "The misspelling of our name reflected poorly not only on the County but our municipality as well. [This is] One small victory for accuracy and correct spelling!"

Governments are generally thought to waste money doing things the wrong way and, a lot of the time, that's true. While this scenario, in which Bergen County wasted money on a mistake that never should've been made, is by no means the portrait of government efficiency, at least the County acknowledged the mistake and promptly fixed it. Hopefully this kind of response will be a trend that gains traction with all governments, regardless of their size and the size of problems with which they're faced.

This post was originally published on April 2, 2009.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No Eye Candy In This S.I. Screen Shot

Perhaps Sports Illustrated's annual antidote for the winter blues, or "The Swimsuit Issue," grabbed the lion's share of the S.I. editorial staff's attention and proofreading became an afterthought during the lead-up to the issue's publication. A reader has submitted yet another blunder made by the sports mag. This one occurred in a headline on its Web site and is by no means traditional eye candy. It's eye candy maybe only for misanthropic Proofreaders and others susceptible to the inexorable allure of Schadenfreude.

About a month ago, reader T.T. Douglas found the faulty headline pictured and highlighted above and e-mailed the Proofreader the following:

In the headline I believe they are trying to say "outrage" as in "fans are outraged," but instead they typed "outrange." Nice!
Nice, yes. Also nice: T.T. went on to say a couple of laudatory things about the Proofreader--always a great idea.

And yes. T.T., S.I. most definitely intended to to use the word "outrage" (rather than the gibberish "outrange") as evidenced by the correction it made shortly after you noticed the bungled headline. Hopefully this mistake and another recent blunder made by S.I. aren't examples of a new sensibility the magazine is toying with. Stick to the mainstream eye candy you've gotten to know so well over the last 46 years, S.I.: under-clothed skinny babes.

The Proofreader thanks T.T. Douglas for submitting the mistake.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wrong Marriage Being Worried About in Job Posting

As the national unemployment rate continues meandering between ten and eleven percent, it's becoming increasingly hard for Americans to find jobs--or even online job postings that have been competently proofread. In this recent job posting by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism outfit, apostrophes were neglected almost entirely and a couple of words are conspicuously missing.

According to the mistake-riddled screen shot above, ProPublica seeks a blogger "who has a critical eye" and the company freely admits that they "dont pretend to have all the answers about how investigative journalism should best be married with blogging." Perhaps, ProPublica, before tackling the Gordian marriage of investigative journalism and blogging, your rank-and-file should focus on figuring out the more facile marriage of apostrophes and contractions. How's that for a little advice from someone known for having a critical eye?

And a little advice for you, too, Joe Six-pack job-seeker: Please refrain from sending your résumé and cover letter out with similarly careless mistakes. Even though companies like ProPublica are careless and stupid-looking, they'll never forgive you for appearing to be the same. Double standard? Yes. Solution for both Joe Six-pack job-seekers and careless employers looking to hire? Yes, again. Simply avail yourselves of the proofreading services offered by the many proofreading sponsors of this blog.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Times Corrects Minor Typo In Front Page Obama Caption

The New York Times published a caption this afternoon that read a tad awkwardly. As you can see in the side-by-side screen shots below, Times editors published a headline that read, "The president stopped into a White House briefing room..." in a pointer positioned in the main section of its Web site's front page and leading to this story on The Caucus blog. The use of "stopped" in the caption seemed odd to be sure, but not necessarily wrong. However, confirmation that it was a mistake became apparent fourteen minutes later when Gray Lady editors changed "stopped" to "stepped" in the copy.

At the same time, as you probably noticed, Times editors changed the photo of President Obama used on the front page. It's not clear why: Both pictures of the POTUS are actually beautifully shot. Moreover, if you're a regular reader of the blog, you'll realize this is the second time this year the Times has had copy issues in this space of its front Web page.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Double-take In Jock Going Into Government Story

There's an old chewing gum commercial that became famous for positing that people can double their pleasure and fun by simply adding another of the same thing. While that snappy theory may be true of good-looking, twenty-something preppies and sticks of minty gum, it just doesn't necessarily translate when applied to the old written word.

As you can see highlighted in the screen shot above, Philadelphia's KYW Newsradio doubled nobody's fun and pleasure by adding an extra "in" (capitalized, no less) to a sentence in a story about a jock who's planning on running for Congress. Unfortunately, the only thing this story about Jon Runyan managed to double was the Proofreader's exasperation: He found the mistake last November and just checked back to see that, over two months after its publication, the mistake is still uncorrected.

Wait, maybe this is a story about a jock going into politics that was approved and published by a jock who went into proofreading, which would double everyone's pleasure and fun--because what society really lacks is ex-jocks working in government and ex-jocks working in publishing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

WaPo Mangles Name of Twelfth Month

Over the last couple of weeks, the Proofreader's inbox has received a flurry of mistake submissions. Rest assured, readers--he will get to your submission, if he hasn't done so already. With that out of the way, today's mistake comes courtesy of the discerning eye of reader Global Watch Editor, who caught a Washington Post blog mangling the spelling of December.

As you can see highlighted in the above screen shot taken from WaPo's Federal Eye blog, the name of the twelfth month on the Gregorian calendar is spelled "Demceber." The kindergarten-esque blunder occurred in the Tuesday, January 25th edition of the "Eye Opener," a morning "review of government news." According to the blog's tagline, Federal Eye is "keeping tabs on the government." Similarly, the Proofreader is keeping tabs on "all manner of printed mistakes that shouldn't have been made." In this case, Federal Eye, that means the Proofreader is keeping tabs on you, because the word December is one that a team of professional journalists should be able to spell accurately. Inexplicably, over a week after the error was published, it has still yet to have been corrected.

The Proofreader thanks Global Watch Editor for submitting the mistake.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Times Publishes Salinger Obit Without Striking TK Placeholder

Huge news of the death of iconic author and recluse J.D. Salinger swept across the media today, with innumerable news outlets clamoring to publish their obits ASAP after the news broke. In doing so, The New York Times made an embarrassing blunder in what was an otherwise gripping and exhaustive summation of the 91-year-old Salinger's life and times: Editors failed to remove a TK placeholder prior to publishing the obituary on its Web site.

As you can see highlighted in the screen shot above, taken from the article's second page, editors left a TK (a common abbreviation used in publishing to indicate that there is more material "to come") after the quote from Salinger's agent, for which it was apparently holding a place. As you can see below in a screen shot of the exact same graph, Times editors quickly realized the presence of the composition vestige and deleted it from the article--but not before the Proofreader saw it!

Don't forget to scroll down for today's regularly scheduled post.

KOAM-TV Needs Refresher on Contraction and Possessive Forms of It

Holy fuck! Look at all the virtual ink the Proofreader had to waste on that screen shot below, found by Stan Kost on the Web site of a CBS affiliate serving the Pittsburg, Kansas/Joplin, Missouri markets. That baby's lit up like a Christmas tree. Perhaps--since this riveting story was published on December 7--its writers and editors had attended the T.V. station's Christmas party earlier that evening and staggered back to their desks fall-down drunk and desperate to write some news.

That's not the only explanation for this mess, but it might be the most logical one because this onslaught of blunders is literally as incomprehensible as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's movie career. Kost originally e-mailed the Proofreader to point out one of the five erroneous uses of the contraction "it's" and then e-mailed again saying:
I have also noticed in paragraphs two and three, the word "President" is capitalized. I'm not an owner of an A.P. Stylebook, but if it's the president of a company, shouldn't it be lowercase? In addition, the end of paragraph three has an unnecessary "the" in front of president.
Indeed it does. And, as has been noted here before, the Proofreader doesn't own an A.P. Stylebook, either. But he does own a New York Times style guide, page 270 of which confirms that when used to refer to the president of a company, the word president should be lowercase. 

The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistakes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sloppy Copy on TriMet Sign

The ways in which government incompetence manifests are many and that incompetence, too often, reveals itself to the public in the form of sloppy copy on municipal government-issued signage. The latest found example is courtesy of reader Sean Patrick, who snapped the below photo as the TriMet MAX train he was riding pulled into the Gateway Transit Center in Portland, Oregon.

In his e-mail message, Patrick wrote that the mistake was on a sign "on the door to where the operator sits to drive the train" and "it caught my eye." It caught his eye because the S tacked onto the last word of the sign's second line resulted in the usage of the wrong tense of the verb "to vandalize." The copy should just read vandalize, sans the S on the end. In the second paragraph, the sign writers, editors and makers managed to use "vandalizes" properly, but that by no means negates the mistake above it.

TriMet's offering a cool $1,000 reward to people who report the assault of TriMet workers or vandalism of TriMet property to the transportation agency. Too bad for the Proofreader and Sean Patrick that there's not a similar cash reward up for grabs to those who report the assault and vandalism of the English language on government-issued signage.

The Proofreader thanks Sean Patrick for submitting the mistake.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Headline Blunder First of Two Mistakes In Telegraph Story

In this story on the Web site of The Daily Telegraph, Spanish politician Gaspar Llamazares decried the "low level" of intelligence the FBI demonstrated by using his hair and facial features in a digital simulation of what Osama bin Laden might look like sans his usual long beard and turban get-up. (They basically just made Llamazares look older, called him bin Laden and then took the rest of the afternoon off). In a similar vein, the Proofreader is decrying the low level of proofreading skills demonstrated at the Telegraph for allowing spelling mistakes in the headline and body of said article--mistakes reported to the Proofreader by Stan Kost.

As you can see highlighted in the screen shot above, the word politician is short one i, and misspelled "politican." Highlighted in the below screen shot of the article's sixth graph, Kost noticed the word technician was lacking an i, and misspelled "technican."

"I can't attribute it to simply a British spelling variation (as I can with "programme" in the same paragraph)," wrote Kost in his e-mail message, while also marveling at how technician was spelled correctly in the previous sentence and bungled so soon after. The Proofreader's guess: Maybe the i key on the writer's keyboard was sticking or something, because both mistakes are similar in nature. That's an explanation, but not an excuse, because copy editors or proofreaders should've caught these blunders.

The Telegraph offers readers a very thorough online Style Book, however, interestingly, the book mentions nothing on the merit of careful proofreading. Perhaps Telegraph Style Book editors should write that entry--pronto!

The Proofreader thanks Stan Kost for submitting the mistakes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Noble Cause Debased By Ignoble Proofreading Failure

Wow! This mistake has to be a colossal embarrassment for ReMIND.org, an initiative by the Bob Woodruff Foundation. (Bob Woodruff, you'll remember, is an ABC News journalist who suffered near fatal head injuries four years ago while covering the war in Iraq.) In an attempt to re-brand the "support our troops" phrase as something more than a hollow platitude, the organization awkwardly and unfortunately bungled the spelling of the slogan's middle word, as you can see highlighted in the screen shot below.
We've seen this type of carelessness before in Web ad copy, but those mistakes were made by frivolous companies peddling weight control drugs on the Internet. This one was made by an organization pursuing a noble cause, headed by a high-profile journalist and, presumably, run by many smart people.

And it's not like this is a 2,500 word news story. There are twelve words in the ad that needed to have been proofread. Most fourth-graders could handle that task. And so, probably, could the proofreading sponsors of this blog, so the Proofreader invites everyone to click on their links should you require their services.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

S.I. Makes Error In Baseball Story

Almost a month ago, reader Slapinions e-mailed the Proofreader and stated, ""I found an error in the following S.I. article" about Nick Johnson returning to the New York Yankees. "I thought maybe you'd enjoy it," Slapinions concluded.

Well, Slapinions, the Proofreader never enjoys seeing foolish mistakes like this one, especially when it was made by a publication to which the Proofreader had a subscription for the majority of his youth. But, he most certainly enjoys--with a borderline unhealthy enthusiasm--highlighting, assailing and immortalizing those miscues. So without further ado...

As you can see in the above screen shot, the venerable Sports Illustrated allowed some sloppy copy into an article published on its Web site on December 18, 2009. The bungled phrasing appears to be the result of one or more re-writes made to the sentence. Evidently, writers and editors couldn't decide whether Johnson would replace Matsui, or magically become him. Based on a comparison of Johnson's and Matsui's career stats, Johnson will probably do neither and S.I. writers and editors worth their salt should know that instinctively.

Interestingly, almost a month after the publication of the mistake--an abundance of time to proofread an article--the error still exists on SI.com.

The Proofreader thanks Slapinions for submitting the mistake.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are Women Aroused By Balboa?

Female desire has long been a mystery sought to be solved by men and women alike. So notes the cover story from the January 25th, 2009 edition of The New York Times Magazine in its highlighting of the efforts made by several researchers who are making headway on the topic. It's an intriguing and much debated story that mentions a lot of weird stuff, like people watching monkey porn while being monitored by scientists. Seriously.

But wait a second. On pages 29 and 30 of the magazine, the article mentions the "long-term effects of ginkgo balboa extract on sexual dysfunction in women," as you can see in the highlighted screen shot below. Gingko Balboa extract? What's that? An involuntary "DNA" sample from Sylvester Stallone? That seems way too weird, even for a story hinging on monkey porn.

And it is. Evidently, the article was attempting to reference the ancient and celebrated herb Ginkgo biloba, which has been used to treat everything from tinnitus to dementia. But somehow the word "balboa" followed Ginkgo in the print edition. Online, Times Web editors caught and corrected the mistake, as you can see below in the highlighted screen shot taken from the second page of the story's Web version. If this is a typo, it's one of catastrophic proportions because Balboa and biloba are really not that similarly spelled. The article listed several different things researchers found to be foolproof aphrodisiacs for women, including lesbian porn and video of a nude woman exercising. Seriously. However, nothing about proficient proofreading skills getting women hot was mentioned. Tragic.

This post was originally published on February 5, 2009.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ESPN Ignores Elementary Mnemonic Device

How often did your fourth grade language arts teacher repeat the mantra to you? I before E except after C. Yeah, it's an old, fairly annoying mnemonic device. But heed it and you'll likely always nail the spelling of the many words to which it applies. Ignore it and what happens? You look like an idiot. Just look at what happened in this story over on ESPN.com, submitted by reader Adam Wade.

Brett Favre is no stranger to controversy and, as we've noted before, no stranger to sloppy copy when he's being written about. In this case, ESPN.com bungled the spelling of believes, misspelling it "beleives," as you can see highlighted in the screen shot above. If only fourth grade language arts teachers read ESPN.com's N.F.L. coverage, they'd be rioting. Luckily for ESPN, there's a good chance that, in the history of the Internet, no grade school language arts teacher has ever navigated to ESPN.com's N.F.L. section.

Now, if someone would please come up with a mnemonic device for spelling mnemonic. That would make everyone's life easier.

The Proofreader thanks Adam Wade for submitting the mistake.