Corrections are an inevitable part of journalism.
News publications post between thousands and hundreds of thousands of words per day, depending on the size of the publication.
The Cobb County Courier is somewhere short of 20,000 words per day, but probably a bit over 10,000 on an average day, particularly when syndicated third-part articles we publish are taken into account.
So errors are bound to creep in, along with typos that aren’t substantive errors, but still look sloppy.
Some errors make me feel like crawling under a rock, though.
This morning I put into place an article based on a public information release the Cobb County Police Department had sent out last night. The release contained the phrase “St. Tammany Parish (Florida).”
I’ve had relatives in both Florida and Louisiana, and there are two things I know.
One is that Florida has counties, not parishes.
And the second is that there is indeed a St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana.
Yet at around 4 a.m., a prime time for making errors like that, I not only put in the body of the article, but in the headline, that the suspect was being held in Florida.
Later that morning, Monica DeLancy emailed me that I should check the story for that error, and I did. And I flushed with embarrassment.
I don’t blame the police department for this. They are working under much the same over-supply of words journalists are, between tons of routine reports they have to prepare plus statements that the public information officers work up in cooperation with investigators .
The proper way for journalists to handle corrections is prominently and quickly, so I wrote up a correction at the beginning of the article, and emailed and left a phone message for the police so that I could get a definitive answer on whether Florida played any role in the story at all.
There’s only one correction I’ve had to run that was more embarrassing than this.
A freelancer submitted a story about a Civil War artifact.
In that story he identified Richard Sherman as the general who captured Atlanta.
I copy edited the article, and didn’t notice the error.
I got to have a little fun with that one though, and wrote: “As far as I know Richard Sherman was not responsible for burning Atlanta.”