Typos have long been a problem since the days of the typewriter. What can now be corrected with the single click of a button in the digital age used to require typists to re-write entire articles in the age of the typewriter. Nowadays, typos are not considered noteworthy errors in the news sector and don't find themselves on an ombudsman page as long as the errors are not done in excess. Granted, a strategically placed typo will soon find itself swirling through social media but, in most cases, the reader's eyes smoothly glaze over them.
However, as I have published columns throughout the past year, letters have come to me from our readers regardless of the nature of the typist's error. This week, we received one of those such letters from a reader. Let me continue after quoting it:
My name is Wassima Ibn Salah, reporter for the Aljazeera.net website.
I was reading one of your articles, and it seems that there was a mistake about the date of the shooting down of the Russian fighter jet.
In your article the date is November 26 and the Russian plane was shot November 24. I just thought to send you this comment in case your editor didn't pay attention to it.
Have a good day."
After receiving the letter, one of our web editors promptly corrected the error. I also would like to thank Ms. Salah for his correction.
But this brings me to the main point of this article. When I look back at the articles we have featured on this page, letters about typos or material mistakes such as the one featured here have been minimalistic. For that, I would like to congratulate our editors and copy-editors for their attentiveness.
Typos are already regarded as a simple mistake of human nature; and they should be, as long as they are not so excessive to the point that they suggest a sloppy and lazy attitude from the writer of the news article. Of course, typos can have a wide range of effects on the audience, depending on the platform upon which the typo is committed. Namely, in the digital format, typos are quite easy to correct. In the printed version, not so much. If the mistake makes it to television, we will get ready for backlash on social media.
I would also like to remind my colleagues that typos and mistakes made to news articles that are agency sourced does not absolve us of our responsibility to maintain accuracy. Stories coming from agency sources must also be proofread and fact-checked. If a news story exists on the pages of Daily Sabah, the story is our content, regardless of its source.
Material mistakes are another matter. If these types of errors are perceived as being intentionally misleading, this will take a toll on our paper's credibility. If not, such errors can easily be interpreted as sloppy work, which would also potentially lower the quality of the newspaper.
The most common place we find material mistakes is not in the verbiage but in the numbers. Not just the dates of news events but also percentages, statistical numbers and death toll numbers from a tragedy must be double checked to ensure the integrity of our newspaper. While statistics are the most commonly seen errors, the names of the victims, prominent persons or spokesmen as well as the titles of organizations are the next most typical culprits for material errors.
I would like to remind my readers that, even though the prompt correction of mistakes is a good first step to take, that correction should be followed by editing out the mistake to maintain transparency and the credibility of our newspaper. Maintaining the self-destructive attitude that "No one is the wiser" can only hurt the newspaper in the long run.
Lastly we have one last correction to mention here. Although the appropriate correction is already in the news article itself mentioning here would be good idea for the aforementioned transparency and keeping track. In the first edition of the news article "Though it has nothing to do with refugees, Canadian children's choir sings oldest Islamic song Tala al-Badru Alayna", it was portrayed as the choir singed the song in order to welcome the refugees. Later on it was evident that this wasn't the case and along with many other news organizations, Daily Sabah also made this mistake. Let me finish the article by quoting part of the correction in the said news article: "The story of Kilani's video turning into a touching news story praising Canada and its recent stance on refugees also became a good example of verifying the source and how stories published in social media can transform into massive and misleading hits."