Allan Takes Aim Blog

You can’t believe what’s in the paper

Posted on: 27 January 2010


First published “The Chronicle” 19 January 2007.

During the 16 years (now seventeenth year) of my column in The Chronicle, I’ve had people ring and tell me that it’s no wonder you can’t believe what you read in the paper. They base their comment on having come across some spelling mistakes in the body of the paper not to mention the column, which I’m certain was their real reason for calling. While probably right in both cases I think the mistakes are few and far between. In my own case I was hauled over the coals, and rightly so, by a former High School Principal for confusing principle and principal.

Of egregious spelling mistakes in The Chronicle’s past was the headline that included the word “codswhallop.” When I read it I telephoned the editor (not the current editor) and told him a reader had called me and said the spelling was codswallop. Unfortunately, he refused to admit it saying he had used the word in other papers without a problem. Why he denied it I don’t know as the mistake was of minor importance except, perhaps, in the sense that readers who think spelling in the paper is always right would go on to use the wrong spelling at a later date.

Apart from mistakes in spelling, misprints and poorly worded phrases in newspapers often make things funny, even if unintentionally and they occur in even the most prestigious publications. At times they are to be found in The Canberra Times, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald and other major publications, as have reports that not only are inaccurate but also are not true.

One of the most famous examples of misreporting concerned Mark Twain himself a reporter and once the owner of the Buffalo Express newspaper. Most people will be familiar with this piece of misreporting because Twain’s reply to a reporter’s question about the rumour of his death has become one of the world’s’ most used quotes: “the truth of my death is greatly exaggerated.” This is a good example of the fact that reporting slips in newspaper, magazine, and now radio and television programmes provide the most memorable humour.

Advertising also provides much humour. I doubt anyone wouldn’t know that the following magazine advert was for dogs: “Great Dames for sale” or that the truth of the advert: “Man, honest. Will take anything” means something different to what is implied. Mind you they might think twice about the following phrase: “Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.” I also think the following advert a classic: “Illiterate? Write today for free help.”

For myself I get fun attaching using advertising phrases that created the wrong impression to create an ad to make the ad for an activity more interesting. For example the advert that said: “Our bikinis are exciting. They are simply the tops” might be of benefit to the board of a mixed swimming club seeking new members.

By this time, however, and because you might have started wondering what the title of the column applies to, let me take you back to page 9 of last week’s Chronicle which carried a picture of Boadicea, myself, my daughter Elizabeth and husband David under the following caption: Marriage milestones run in the family,” followed by a brief story.

The story was true but for one small detail: it said that Boadicea and I had just celebrated 60 years of marriage. Much as I would like to claim that as true, I can’t. Boadicea and I have only celebrated 50 years of marriage. Indeed, whether either of us will live a further 10 years is a matter of doubt with my case less certain than Boadicea’s.

My case is less certain because it could depend on Boadicea’s horoscope. If it says she has a great opportunity to remove an obstacle to happiness and if we’ve fallen out and haven’t spoken for a couple of days, she might decide to pick up her trident and dispose of me before the ten years are up.

Apart from adding to view that you can’t believe what’s in the paper such an event would give The Chronicle a story and the headline: “More than 50 years of marriage could be dangerous”

Every Tuesday, get The Chronicle for the best local news in Canberra

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2 Responses to "You can’t believe what’s in the paper"

One of the things that I like about this blog is that I can re-read some of the columns which I have already appreciated in The Chronicle. The paper itself usually goes to re-cycling.

Appreciating the persistence you put into your website and in depth information you provide. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed information. Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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