Saturday, August 8, 2009

Can an Erratum Clean This Up?


A day after the burial of former President Aquino, this photo came out in the issue of a daily broadsheet here in the Philippines. For the sake of safety and also to prevent further disgrace, I will refuse to name this broadsheet since I am also one of their avid readers.

I was one of those who (should I say lucky?) have received a copy of this photo on my Facebook account through my fellow writer Dante Gagelonia. And well, as I posted this on my page and asked people to comment on this, a lot actually responded and as expected, the said photo spread like a wild fire.

What could be "special" about this photo? Readers, if you paid attention on the photo's caption, it says there that the coffin was President Arroyo's (instead of Aquino's). And as you all know Mrs. Arroyo is still alive as of this writing.

And being a writer and journalism graduate, this photo brought me back to one of the best lessons I learned back during my days in the university. Aside from the Journalist's Creed, my former professor, Ma'am Cecilia Rañola-Villegas instilled on us this protocol: be careful with the names of people and the way you address them. Commit mistakes on anything but not on grammar and people's names.

And indeed, this makes sense.

It was one important chunk of advice. I say chunk because I was able to use it in my craft. Back then, I served as the editor-in-chief of the school publication and I'm not saying this to brag but I should say I was the most critical, OC and detail-oriented editor-in-chief; to the annoyance of my staff. And being a writer, there's no such thing as a room for mistakes. I even came to a point back then that I summoned the whole staff because of a mistake regarding grammar.

Despite that publishers can actually issue an erratum (written apology to correct the mistake that previously appeared), this single, even typographical error could actually cause a lot of humiliation and the worse, pain in the neck for the business.

Thus, in the written profession especially in newspapers, to err is human but to forgive is not their policy.

When I became an editorial assistant for a university press and then a writer for Highlights, I still try to comply with the said protocol--and learned how important the said rule was.; a violation is like committing a huge crime. I should say that despite of the fact that my editors in Highlights are way kind, gracious and forgiving tyrants, I try not to make such mistake. Because I know the cost if I'd do so. Yet, in times that I'd commit some, the humiliation dwells on me first--and it sticks in a lot.

One of my friends even suggested to fire the proofreader since this is his job. But then, in lieu, I told her, they're not 100 percent accurate all the time. And while the erratum is easily written and pasted on the newspaper's pages, sadly, it's not easy to patch this humiliation ASAP.

At the back of my head I wonder, maybe upon seeing this photo, President Arroyo looks that of the Chicaco Bulls logo out of disappointment. You guys know why.





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