by Father Mark Goldasich
You can’t work for a newspaper and not be humble. That’s because each week you get hundreds of opportunities to embarrass yourself — through typos, factual errors, or mangled sentences and headlines — before thousands and thousands of people.
Hey, it happens, even to us here at The Leaven. And it’s rare if some astute reader doesn’t catch it. For example, in the issue that came out the Friday after Thanksgiving, I’d typed in a headline that read: “Catholic spirituality, parishes are tools in addition treatment.” No, it wasn’t a story about people who are math impaired. The word should have been “addiction.” It got by my eyes . . . and the eyes of several staff members. Even the spell-checker was no help, as “addition” is a valid word, just not the right one in this case.
Naturally, there’s more. In that same issue, a story on the back page had this headline: “Spiritual mentors help’s Catholic’s deepen their faith.” Ouch! Honestly, I caught that one and could have sworn that I corrected it on the computer. Obviously, I was mistaken. I blame both of these errors (and another one that apparently readers didn’t catch in a caption on that same back page) on the fact that my mind was a bit unfocused, thinking no doubt about the Thanksgiving break instead.
Things could always be worse, however, as this Paul Harvey tidbit from South Africa shows:
Pastor A.J. Jones wanted to sell a TV set and ran a classified ad in a Pretoria newspaper. As first printed it said: “The Rev. A.J. Jones has a color TV set for sale. Telephone 555-1313 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who lives with him, cheap.”
The next day, the newspaper printed this correction: We regret any embarrassment caused to Rev. Jones by a typographical error in yesterday’s editions. It should have read, “The Rev. A.J. Jones has a color TV set for sale, cheap. Telephone 555-1313 and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who lives with him after 7 p.m.”
The next day, the paper said: The Rev. A.J. Jones informs us he has received several annoying phone calls because of an incorrect advertisement in yesterday’s paper. It should have read, “The Rev. A.J. Jones has color TV set for sale. Cheap. Telephone 555-1313 and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who loves with him.”
One day later: “Please take note that I, the Rev. Jones, have no TV set for sale. I have smashed it. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Donnelley. She was until yesterday my housekeeper.”
The next day: “WANTED – a housekeeper. Telephone Rev. A.J. Jones, 555-1313. Usual housekeeping duties, good pay, love in.” (Found in “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes,” by Robert J. Morgan.)
Oh how easy for such a “mistake fest” to happen! I wish that celebrating Catholic Press Month meant that we could brag about having publications that were error-free. Despite our best intentions, there’s likely something in every issue that slips by us. Perhaps if we produced the paper in a soundproof bunker, we’d get perfection. But a typical deadline day at The Leaven has ringing phones, dropin visitors, scores of focus-robbing minor interruptions, shouted questions and answers, and often just good old-fashioned end-of-the-day fatigue. It’s only by God’s grace that we get the paper out on time. My prayer each week is that mistakes in the paper might be few . . . and minor.
I draw comfort from the fact that there’s no shortage of other journalists who mess up from time to time. Here are some examples from the Web site alphadictionary.com:
• Grandmother of Eight Makes Hole in One
• If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last A While
• Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
• Kicking Baby Considered To Be Healthy
• Teacher Strikes Idle Kids
• Two Convicts Evade Noose, Jury Hung
• Two Sisters Reunite After Eighteen Years At Checkout Counter
• Two Soviet Ships Collide — One Dies
• Man Struck by Lightning Faces Battery Charge
• Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
• New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
• Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
• Man Is Fatally Slain
• Miners Refuse to Work after Death
And, if these headlines keep up, this last one might actually be a blessing: Nicaragua Sets Goal to Wipe Out Literacy.
As we continue through this Catholic Press Month, the staff here at The Leaven recommits itself to producing the best paper possible for our readers. We’ll strive to keep our errors, especially those pesky typos, to a bare minimum.
As a sign of good faith, I’ve proofreaded my column this wek with special car. It’s such a good feling to putt another error-free issue of the paper too bed. (Forgive me!)