More than anything else we mess up, spelling names wrong drives me crazy. I absolutely hate it. For one, it has the immediate effect of undermining our credibility with readers. How can you trust the rest of the information in the story if we missed something as basic as getting the names right?
I also hate it because it can never truly be "fixed." Often, a story about a person’s accomplishment, or a feature story about them, might be the only time in their life that they’ll be in the newspaper. It should be an article worth clipping, perhaps framing on their wall. But who wants to clip a keepsake with their name wrong? We always correct the errors on Page 2A, but it can’t repair what should have been a memorable recognition for someone.
And worse yet — these are almost always preventable errors.
Lately, we’ve been too sloppy with names. Copy Desk Chief Michael Roehrman keeps a monthly log of errors, and analyzes them for me and Managing Editor Theresa Johnson. I noted to him last week that we seem to have had a flurry of misspelled names lately, sometimes in stories, and sometimes in captions and headlines. Michael had just finished looking at July corrections, and noted that more than 40% of our errors were misspelled names.
As a result, Michael and I decided to tighten down our policy for reporters, editors, photographers and copy editors to verify that names have been verified. I’ll ask Michael to explain our new policy in greater depth for you. My expectation is that it helps us put an abrupt stop to the name misspellings.
– Sherry (not Sheri or Sherrie)