Monday, January 5, 2009

All The News That Fits Together

A guy writes about a city he loves for 45 years, and what does he get? A farewell column that has at least two sets of words mashed together in every single paragraph, making it almost impossible to read.

When Dick Feagler reminisces about the good old days of newspaper journalism in his front-page column of last Sunday's Plain Dealer, he might also be talking about the good old days when someone was actually proofreading the publication.

Just imagine, your swan song after nearly a half-century of covering news, politics and life in general in Northeast Ohio, and you get this: "We alwayscarried enough dimes in our pockets to call the city desk." I read it as "We always scared enough dimes..." the first three times I looked at the sentence.

It doesn't matter if there are only six people left on the staff of a major newspaper: One of those people has got to read the damn stories before the paper goes out the door. Sure, there are printing errors that happen at nearly the last minute of publication, but there is always someone on staff with the responsibility of catching those mistakes prior to thousands of people seeing them. Well, almost always.

It breaks my heart when I see errors in any publication, whether in print or online. I've made a few of my own mistakes in published articles. No matter how hard we try, mistakes can happen. Maybe the problem was caught after the early editions left the printer, and corrections were made later in the day. Nevertheless, this latest boo-boo from the PD makes it feel like there aren't any humans left to blame for mistakes such as this.

Or maybe Dick Feagler made the errors himself, purposely, to see if anyone still reads newspapers. I see that the pushed-in words were separated in the online version of Feagler's column. Maybe it's an old columnist's way of saying, "Hell, everyone's online anyway, let's just throw in a bunch of really bad mistakes and see if one fool out there is reading this and will catch them." I checked the comments under his column online; there were several fools who caught the mistakes in the print version.

Newspapers certainly have changed since Dick Feagler began writing 45 years ago. But then they've changed drastically in the last 5-10 years, too. For those of us who still love to read them, it's a difficult time indeed.

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