Learning the high cost of failure to use spell check

A nice simple media dilemma for a change:


Ace hack-in-the-making Douglas Walker at Deadline Press & Picture Agency, felt a bit aggrieved after one of the agency’s stories ended up as the subject of an irreverent mickey-take on the Spike section of All Media Scotland.


He asks:

I know this was our fault ultimately, but to be ridiculed by All Media is a bit much, is it not?


Well, naw. It was a howler – and a funny one at that. And Spike is there to make sure none of us in the media take ourselves too seriously, even if there is a serious message to pass on. In this case it’s a reminder that everyone at Deadline should be running a more thorough eye (and spell check) over their copy before sending it out.


None of the papers have the staff to carry out the same level of checks and balances these days and the subs and news desk people who do catch these type of howlers don’t haves the time to phone up agencies and let them know when standards are slipping. So it’s up to the likes of AMS to give us an occasional kick up the @rse.


I’m going to come over all old-fashioned here – because as a young hack, these kind of blunders would have resulted in a monstering from Hamish Coghill (at the Evening News) or Malclolm Speed (at the Daily Record). I still break out in a cold sweat at the thought of some of the pastings handed out by a couple of old school pros who were absolute sticklers for doing everything, well, properly. Check, check. And check again.


To be “Coghilled” at the Evening News was a singular experience. One bleary-eyed Saturday morning I turned up horribly hungover, minus my socks, without a tie and with a heid like a burst sofa – only to bump into Hamish in the corridor. I feared the worst.


However, he failed to noticed my dress sense and instead gave me a tongue-lashing for a story where I’d described a sex attacker as a monster(“A monster is what you find in Loch Ness – not on Princes Street!”). He also gave me the hairdryer treatment for describing a reward being offered as over £1000 (“You go over a bridge – but it should be more than £1000!”).


An even more pernickity rollicking was handed out to Magnus Llewellin, now of The Herald, who wrote a story which described some street crime perpetrator as making his escape north up Whitehouse Loan. Hamish was apoplectic: “Any fool knows that you go north DOWN Whitehose Loan. It slopes up to the south!”.


Of course, back in the day, there was another unwritten rule. No matter how bad a howler was dropped by a newspaper, none of the others would make any capital out of it. Oh aye, the staff on the Record might have a laugh at some clanger in The Sun – or vice versa. But no-one would ever committ their jibes to print.


Why? Because the simple truth is that mistakes happen – no matter how thorough the checks. So everyone took the view, that “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.


Let’s just hope AMS manages to keep its nose very clean for the next weeks.


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