Just over a year ago, my blog on the subbing howlers made by what I called Newsquest’s ‘hub of horrors’ in Wales attracted more than 70 comments.
Several were from hard-pressed subs arguing that the content they received was so poor to start with they had little chance of correcting everything.
As we know, Newsquest has continued to export production to its centralised unit in Newport, and now one of its senior subs has started a blog-style internal email series headed ‘Damned reporters!’, sharing examples of sloppy copy the hub faces every day.
The sub launched the tirade in December with the note: ‘I will share with you a slap in the face for all those people who have criticised this hub. Steve Dyson, are you watching?’
So popular was the first 3,641-word missive – sent to scores of sub-editor colleagues and several bosses – that two more collections of reporters’ gaffes have been emailed this year, each averaging around 4,000-words in length.
And although the sub’s remark was probably an in-joke, it ended up that I was watching – after a Newsquest insider leaked the email-blogs to Dyson at Large.
For journalists, especially old-school subs, they make for a fascinating read, but I can hardly republish all 12,000 words.
So here are just a few edited portions – minus the details of alleged offending reporters who were named and shamed to Newport colleagues. To start with, straightforward factual errors (with the sub’s comments in italics):
- ‘A report by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums released in August revealed the zoo houses several reptiles fighting off extinction. They include a frog that doesn’t croak…’ South Wales Argus. Frogs are not reptiles!
- ‘Marine Brentley, who is still undergoing rehabilitation and is due to be discharged from the Army next year…’ Telegraph & Argus. Since when were the Royal Marines part of the Army?
- ‘A TONGE in the Haulgh nursery in Bolton has been told it must improve standards…’, Bolton News. The place is Tonge with the Haulgh, not ‘in’.
Next up, badly-written sentences with meanings that surely weren’t meant:
- ‘Ali Al-Habsi, who will be in action for Oman against Korea this January, also represented his country at the 2007 Asian Cup whilst wearing Wanderers colours.’ Bolton News. He’d have stuck out like a sore thumb if he was really wearing Bolton colours while playing for Oman.
- ‘Working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, left little time anything else, especially sport.’ South Wales Argus. In Wales, do people not bother to eat or sleep? And working 24/7 would not leave ANY time for other things, not little time.
- ‘And a car overturned in New Lane, in Oswaldtwistle, after a driver started sliding down the road.’ Lancashire Telegraph. The sentence suggests that a driver exited his or her vehicle and slid along the road on his or her backside, prompting this car to overturn.
- ‘All three members of the family went to Royal Bolton Hospital to be checked over, but miraculously escaped without injuries.’ Bolton News. Apparently the Royal Bolton Hospital injures its patients on a regular basis… and locks them in!
And now for reporters who seemed to lack care and attention when reporting on crime, or from courts:
- ‘Police have arrested one of the men responsible for the break-ins with a second now being hunted.’ Bolton News. All too often I come across instances of reporters convicting suspects before trial.
- ‘Man, 67, held in police paedo swoop,’ Crewe & Nantwich Guardian. A suggested headline condemning him, before trial, as a paedophile. Quote marks around the word ‘paedo’, please.
- ‘A MAN has admitted taking a taxi, while over the drink-drive limit.’ Northern Echo. It would seem the man featured in this court case has done nothing wrong. After all, the police urge you to take a taxi if you’ve been drinking…
- ‘Daly’s barrister, David McGonigal, said he had been addicted to heroin for more than 20 years.’ Telegraph & Argus. An apparently-naughty solicitor – a drug addict for 20 years!
- ‘A FORMER government computer boffin facing jail for building up a library of sickening photos of child abuse killed himself hours before appearing in court.’ Northern Echo. There was a corpse in the dock, according to this story.
- ‘Defending, Michael Davies, said he was remorseful for his actions and that he has offered to immediately pay back £10,000 after his parents agreed to loan him the money.’ Warrington Guardian. Here we have what is apparently another naughty solicitor.
- ‘Prosecutor Neil Usher said he was “a weak and selfish man who regularly drank too much” and this led to temptation when boys were in his care.’ Bolton News. The reporter’s sentence [suggests] that the prosecutor is weak, selfish and is tempted to abuse boys!
Other reporters were guilty of not knowing their homophones, or not understanding that similar words mean different things:
- ‘Deryl Whittaker, the school’s principle, said…’ Bolton News. What makes this one so bad is that the word concerned is one of those whose spelling is drummed into journalists.
- ‘Every time any concerns were brought up about the plan it was poo-poo’d.’ Knutsford Guardian. Novel spelling of pooh-poohed.
- ‘London Grammer’s Wicked Game is simply stunning, just as haunting as Chris Isaac’s original.’ Bolton News. Oh the irony of being unable to spell pop group London Grammar’s name! They can’t spell Chris Isaak either…
- ‘A RUNCORN soldier, who served in Iraq, hung himself two days before his close friend’s funeral, an inquest in Warrington heard on Monday.’ Runcorn & Widnes World. Everyone knows that a picture is hung and a person is hanged, don’t they?
- ‘Wednesday and Thursday will see daytime temperatures rising to highs of 6c and 11c respectfully across the region with heavy rain forecast for Thursday.’ Lancashire Telegraph. ‘Respectively’, not ‘respectfully’.
- ‘But immigration officers interrupted the ceremony at Blackburn Registry Office and arrested Shahzad, Ottlyk and Baloggojkovitsne.’ Bolton News. There is no such thing. It’s a register office.
- ‘The pool is complimented by a walk-in shower area, steam room…’ The Herald. Failing to know the difference between ‘complimented’ and ‘complemented’ is shocking.
And there were a variety of ‘and also’ tautologies and other repetitions (did you see what I did there?):
- ‘Miss McIntosh, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) said the committee is likely to question the FSA, when representatives of the government agency are due to appear before the committee in the near future.’ The Northern Echo. Three instances of ‘committee’.
- ‘A MUM-of three suffered burns after accidentally setting herself on fire in front of her three children.’ Bolton News. Clearly, a mum of three has three children.
- ‘It is believed that weekly paid staff received payment last week for their work in February but monthly paid staff, who were paid at the end of January, will not receive any payment for their work this month.’ Bolton News. Three instances of ‘paid’ and two of ‘payment’ in the same sentence. Groan!
Finally, I just loved bloopers that were described as ‘general ghastliness’ by the email-blog:
- ‘Nineteen honorary doctorates at the Chancellor’s — Rt Hon Sir Ernest Ryder — Installation Ceremony, each one acknowledging a decade in the history of the university.’ Bolton News. The worst sentence I’ve had the dubious pleasure of reading since arriving at Newport.
- ‘The event on December 6 will be preceded the night before by a professionals opening attended by…’ Bolton News. Why not just say ‘On December 5, there will be a….’?
- ‘His body was found on the ground by police hidden in trees at Pennington Flash Country Park on July 1.’ Lancashire Telegraph. Were police officers hiding in trees, or was the body hidden there?
- ‘Lennon saw his side enjoy just 11 per cent of possession at Parkhead and withstand a barrage of 25 shots on target compared to a solitary three…’ Bolton News. Solitary means one – ‘a solitary three’ is bizarre.
- ‘The retired roofer’s daughter-in-law Sandy said she remembered how alongside family, weightlifting and karate were Mr Ainsworth’s number one priority.’ Lancashire Telegraph. You can have only one number-one priority.
When I contacted the email-blogger — who I’m not naming — my request for further comment on what were described as “unofficial documents” was politely declined.
But as well as being a morale-booster for estranged Newport subs, I think the collection of errors forms a brilliant resource for reporters.
It’s just a shame that such learned advice can no longer be given face-to-face in most Newsquest centres.