Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Northeast Ohio Media Group Knows It Has a Typo Problem

Posted By on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 9:07 AM

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Northeast Ohio Media Group Vice President of Content Chris Quinn knows that Cleveland.com is littered with typos. That's probably what you can expect when you impose quotas on your Northeast Ohio Media Group writers, ask them to publish their reports without a second set of eyeballs seeing it first, and get rid of all the copy editors.

But that doesn't mean Quinn is happy. Nor the readers. Quite the contrary, as this memo from Quinn that recently went out shows. Kind of a typo tirade. He's on the "warpath." And though he's proud of all the "high-minded pieces" that have run on the site (help us out here?), the number of errors is getting too damn high.

How can you, NEOMG reporter, fix this? He has some suggestions: Be more careful, for one. And if you need someone to read your stuff and pretend to be a copy editor, ask your significant other to look over your work. Seriously. Anyway, full memo below.

You all know how proud I am of the run we’ve had these last six-plus months. Each of you has contributed in too many ways to count, and our success is evident in the number of high-minded pieces we have done in news, sports, entertainment and opinion, the creativity we’ve shown in our approaches and the fun we’ve tried to have as we persuaded people to join us in the conversation.

All of that success, however, is being undermined, every day. And, like a foundation being destroyed by termites, it is being undermined by the tiniest of nuisances, the typo.

We hear from people about typos every day. They ask us why they should take us seriously if we can’t catch tiny spelling errors. They ask in the comments. They ask in letters. Sometimes they ask in a rage. And sometimes they ask as they cancel their print subscriptions, when our online typos make it into The Plain Dealer and the Suns.

It’s a genuine crisis, and it threatens our long-term success.

So I’m taking the drastic action of instituting a zero-tolerance policy for typos, starting Monday.

Some of you likely are rolling your eyes right now, and any regular reader of my e-mails knows I am no stranger to typos, but all of us simply must stop making them. When we began in August, I told each of you how important it is that we produce polished copy because we no longer have the same level of editing that we had in the past. It’s time to re-dedicate ourselves.

This also is about taking pride in what we do. We have a basic deal with the people who read our work, and the deal is that we spell correctly and use proper grammar. Anything less is unacceptable.

So, starting Monday, you’re going to hear from me every time a typo makes it into your copy. Yeah, I know. Seems like overkill, but that should tell you how serious this is.

How can you avoid typos?

I suggest that when you finish your posts, you add an extra reading just to scan every character. And do it in the blog software, not in Word. Many of the typos are in headlines and cutlines, and I suspect the reason is that you paste in your post from Word and then dash off cutlines and headlines in Movable Type.

Even better, ask a colleague to read your stuff before you post it. Or your spouse. Or your significant other. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has caught typos in my stuff. In a pinch on something really important, you might even send something to Andrea, who, it turns out, is the most eagle-eyed finder of typos I’ve ever met. She’s merciless.

The key is that you or someone you trust has to actively read your copy to find the spelling mistakes.

So, come Monday, I’m on the warpath. Produce clean copy, and you can avoid me. But if you allow typos into your copy, I’ll be visiting.

We here at Scene aren't immune to typos either, if that's what you're thinking. So in the interest of full disclosure, here's one of my memos to the staff from last year on that topic: "lets try to doublecheck our work before hitting publish to avoid fucking typos, pals."

***

Jim Romenesko snagged this update from an anonymous Plain Dealer reporter:

We predicted this would happen when the company moved to this digital-first philosophy. Now, with no copy editors in the digital mix, far fewer of us on the print side and an entire layer of editors gone after layoffs, the company is reaping the consequences. It’s no one’s fault but Advance publications’. Typos are important mistakes, of course, but typos are only a symptom of the problem at the core of this backward system.

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