Mistakes produce an unpleasant odor

Published 7:51 pm Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Smelly. Stinky. An unpleasant odor. Those are the definitions of the word “reeks.”

Therefore, last week’s headline in the Enquirer referring to a “wind reeking havoc,” makes no sense, unless said wind was particularly odorous. And while I’m sure this newspaper doesn’t make such mistakes, my own, the Hartselle Enquirer, on occasion, does.

We caught the mistake after the newspaper was printed, meaning the headline stared out at us all week. It was one of those times that the shelf-life of a weekly newspaper was a curse instead of a blessing.

I am the person who wrote the “reeks” headline. To make matters worse, I looked up the word before I wrote the headline, checking the definition and spelling. Don’t ask me how I didn’t connect the two, but I didn’t.

And that stinks.

It’s always amazed me that if you’re going to mess something up, it always seems to be the biggest headline or story on the front page. 

One time, I wrote a great story about investigators pulling the body of a missing person out of a local lake. I wrote the headline, which was supposed to say, “Search ends but investigation continues.” Instead, it said, “Seach ends but investigation continues.”

I looked at the headline about 20 times before the newspaper went to press but never caught the error. Others in the office missed it, too, not catching it until the newspaper as printed.

And then there was the story on the district attorney. I don’t remember the particulars about the story, but it had won an award. I was at the awards banquet and they flashed a copy of the story on a big screen. That’s when I caught the error in the lead sentence, “The DA is working to raise pubic awareness.”

The word, of course, was supposed to be public, and given this DA was a happily married man and a faithful church member, I doubt he would have appreciated the irony.

I don’t know if anyone else caught the mistake but I know I was grateful when they moved the story off the screen.

I know mistakes happen. And I know that since we work at a newspaper, our mistakes are particularly public. 

Thankfully, years of doing this job have given me some thick skin, and it never has bothered me when people point out mistakes. If I make them, I want to know.

But I will tell you we do try not to make them. Sure, we’re just human but in the end, mistakes like that, well, they just reek.