"We have been publishing The Times since 1851 and there has never been an edition that did not have typos or errors of fact in it," conceded a senior editor from The New York Times Public Editor's office in an e-mail message. "And there never will be," the editor predicted, when asked about a major misspelling that appeared in the headline of a December 8th, 2008 article on the Gray Lady's Web site. This mistake was caught by the discerning eye of READER BEN, who kindly brought it to the Proofreader's attention.
As you can see in the highlighted screen shot above, The Times neglected to spell Illinois with the requisite two Ls in this article, that's since been changed. In many font types, the capital I and the lower-case L look exactly the same, so it's possible the similarity of the two letters tricked editors into thinking they saw the correct spelling. But, Illinois is a pretty well-known state and it has a silent S at the end. Forgetting the S at the end of Illinois seems like the more likely and explainable error. Either way, this misspelling occurred in a headline, in big, bold print. How exactly does an obvious mistake like this get published? Are these kinds of errors due to over-worked editors or just the breakneck pace of reporting online?
"Many of those errors certainly can be attributed to the crush of deadlines," wrote the senior editor. "And that is certainly true now for reporters and editors on the Web. Their deadlines are 100 times tougher than any print deadline. "
Wait, what about spell-check? Sometimes, in the dash to break news on the Internet, Times editors don't have time to use spell-check and other proofreading methods. And, when they do deploy such devices, spell-checking software occasionally registers a word as spelled correctly, unaware of the context in which it's being used. Ultimately, though, the senior editor points to simple human imperfection.
"The reason these mistakes occur is quite simple: The Times is staffed by human beings and we make mistakes."
The Proofreader thanks Reader Ben, writer of the The Baseball Card Blog, for pointing out the mistake.
Ever find a printed mistake that shouldn't have been made? E-mail a screen shot of it to email@example.com.