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Halp us, Noo Yorke Timez, weer Innernet dummys who kant spel

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 13, 2007 09:27 AM

Classic. Even when the NYTimes admits its faults, the Internet gets blamed. Public Editor Clark Hoyt writes about the massive amount of misspellings that the Old Gray Lady sees fit to print:

The fact is, The New York Times misspells names at a ferocious rate — famous names, obscure names, names of the dead in their obituaries, names of the living in their wedding announcements, household names from Hollywood, names of Cabinet officers, sports figures, the shoe bomber, the film critic for The Daily News in New York and, astonishingly and repeatedly, Sulzberger, the name of the family that owns The New York Times.

The Times has given Gen. Douglas MacArthur the middle initial A at least 25 times since 1987, though he had no middle name and didn’t use A, B, C or S, all of which have been ascribed to him.

So, you ask, what’s the big deal? Doesn’t The Times have more important things to worry about, like getting it right on Iraq and Iran and the presidential campaign?

Yes, a great newspaper has to get the big things right, but it also has to pay fanatical attention to thousands of details every day to prevent the kinds of mistakes that start readers wondering, “If they can’t spell his name right, what else is wrong with the story?”

Or, as Joe Lelyveld said in 2000, when he was executive editor of The Times, “When it comes to accuracy issues, tolerance and the larger view can be dangerous to our health.”

At a retreat of senior editors of The Times, Lelyveld called on them to “sweat the small stuff.” He bemoaned “the malignancy of misspelled names,” pointing out, among other things, that The Times had misspelled the first name of Madeleine Albright, who was then secretary of state, 49 times, despite running three corrections.

Unfortunately, the cancer appears to be getting worse. When Lelyveld spoke in mid-September, there had been 198 corrections for misspelled names in The Times so far that year. Through yesterday, still in early August, there had been 269 this year. And the mistakes keep coming.

The exasperation has spilled over onto the copy desk. John Hinderaker noted it in “They Can’t Spell, Either” last week:

Whoever runs the Corrections section at the New York Times is getting a little exasperated. Here are two items from today’s corrections:

An article in some copies on Wednesday about Congressional efforts to pass legislation to expand the government’s electronic wiretapping powers misspelled — yet again — the surname of the attorney general of the United States, in three of four references. He is Alberto R. Gonzales, not Gonzalez. (The Times has misspelled Mr. Gonzales’s name in at least 14 articles dating to 2001 when he became White House counsel. This year alone Mr. Gonzales’s name has been misspelled in February and March, and in two articles in April.)

An article on the Street Scene page in Business Day on Friday, about the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s entry into bankruptcy law practice, misspelled the name of another law firm that recently lost a bankruptcy specialist. It is Willkie Farr & Gallagher, not Wilkie. (The Times has misspelled the firm’s name in at least 50 articles since 1958. The “Willkie” comes from Wendell L. Willkie, who joined the firm shortly after losing the 1940 presidential election to Franklin D. Roosevelt and remained there until his death in October 1944.)

Shakespeare couldn’t spell either; but then, he was writing fiction.

Heh.

Now, we all make mistakes. But when a sloppy typo or misspelling appears on my blog, it is my fault. When you leave ghastly typos and misspellings in the comments section, it is your fault.

But when asked who’s to blame for so many spelling blunders getting past the NYTimes’ layers and layers and layers of editorial oversight, guess who’s to blame?

It’s our fault!

I asked Greg Brock, the senior editor in charge of corrections, why he thinks so many names are misspelled in the paper, especially when The Times has so many layers of editing. In theory, every article is read by at least five people after a reporter finishes it, though stories written or changed for later editions often get far fewer checks. Brock said that when he looks into mistakes he gets several common responses:

¶Reporters say they were operating from memory and didn’t bother to check. That’s what one writer said after misspelling the name of Julianna Margulies, the television actress.

¶Reporters assume that a name is spelled the “normal” way and don’t check. That’s what happened with the obituary of Neal Shine, the former publisher of The Detroit Free Press, whose first name was not Neil, as it appeared in the paper. Shine hired me in 1968, when he was the city editor of The Free Press, and he would get infuriated by errors like this.

¶Reporters checking names on the Internet are carelessly misled by other people’s misspellings.

Oh, snorty-snort-snort.

“Reporters checking names on the Internet are carelessly misled by other people’s misspellings.”

Dammed Whirled Wyde Webb! How dare we mislead those poor NYTimes writers.

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