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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 20, 2024
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There's a saying that "Doctors bury their mistakes; journalists publish them for everyone to see." Want some recent home-grown examples —- not buried in stories but trumpeted in headlines?
"Venezuala," "Columbians," "hoorah," "respct" and "Career Fair offers advise" have all appeared in recent weeks in the V.I. Independent, which also has the irritating habit of reducing "committee" to "c'ttee" in heads.
The V.I. Daily News had an "A" for spelling in heads until the recent "Antiguan leader confidant" [of winning the election]. But the paper has come up short on local knowledge, in part due to recent turnovers in
"Hodge arraigned in Davis slaying," one News head read. Hodge happens to be one of the most common surnames in the territory, and Davises abound, too. The competition used "Emerald Lady" in its head on the same story, a better cue to readers as to the victim in this case.
"Rules chairwoman calls financial officers to testify," read another News head. First, the reference was to the Finance Committee, not Rules. But beyond that, most people attuned to politics know that Lorraine Berry now chairs Finance. Hers is, indeed, a household name, and a lot shorter than
"Finance chairwoman." (P.S. — Most committee heads are happy to be referred to as "chair," which is gender neutral and, again, a lot shorter in a headline.)
Among the more mortifying cases (one would hope) in recent weeks was an ad in The Daily News stating that a certain attorney "has become a member of the firm concertrating in labor and employment law." And then there was the one in the UVI student newspaper, UVIsion, that read "Height of embarassment."
A recent caption in the Daily News that accompanied two fencing photographs started out with a sentence describing the action in the upper picture. The second sentence read: "Left, H. Drumheller, far left, practices Jackson and Miles assured themselves of victory in a hard-fought, round-the-island race on Sunday. . ." Clearly a case of some other text from some other item inadvertently overtaking what was intended.
A movie listing in the Independent ran as "Solider" for four days before it was corrected to "Soldier." Can it be that no one noticed, or that no one who noticed cared enough to call up and complain?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Independent suffered a thousand shames when it managed to run one of its comic strips, "Rugrats," upside down last month.
The Island Trader began a story previewing a
concert on page 20, directing readers to continue on the facing page 21 —- where, alas, the start of the story, replete with the writer's byline, was repeated.
And then there are the un-Americanisms that crop up in headlines due to the inevitable influence of the Queen's English in the Caribbean.
Two Daily News sports heads, "Windies need to improve fielding" and "N. Carolina roll
over Virginia," are examples. A team is a collective noun; Brits make it plural, but it's singular in Yankee use.
For syntax, try this one from the Daily News: "Medicinal use of plants and herbs were brought from Africa."
How do these things get into print? The answer is easy: by computer.
WYSIWYG, pronounced "wizziwig," is an acronym for "what you see is what you
get," and it refers to computer output. The problem is, after hours of staring at a monitor screen, especially on deadline, an editor may not see what the production department is about to get.
More important than how such errors end up in print is why. In the great majority of cases it's not because editors do not know how to spell. It's because, especially on deadline, nobody looks over anybody else's work with a critical eye -— not even the editor who signs off on a finished newspaper
page before it is taken away to be converted into photographic film and then a plate for the printing press.
The newspaper industry used to employ people called proofreaders whose job was to do nothing else but read over what the typesetters had rekeyboarded from the hard copy stories that the editors had edited from what the reporters had written.
With the advent of computer typesetting in the 1970s, these guardians of good English became, to cite a British expression, redundant. In American English, that would mean the job was already being done by someone else. In British parlance, it merely means the job ceased to exist.
Editor's note: Jean Etsinger is "the" journalism faculty at the University of the Virgin Islands and has worked as a writer and editor on St. Thomas for 16 years.
She was formerly an editor at The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald and The
Brazil Herald in Rio de Janeiro.

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