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Didn't you get the memo?

On Dec, 20, 2005, the first post on this blog pointed to a homonym error, reign for rein. Since then, the error free reign has been published in The Sun at least three times (once on the editorial page and twice in the sports section, not to single out malefactors). So many slips, so few catches.

 I suppose that I’m telling tales out of school to say that journalists don’t necessarily read all that much. It might even stun you to learn that some of my colleagues do not read or heed this blog. (“No!” you protest. “Oh yes,” I sigh.) But journalists are mortals like others, as this example shows.

Some weeks ago, a new program was installed on all the computers in our network, a “visual networking client” to enable technical support to get remote access to our machines when some problem has to be fixed. We’ve had such programs on the machines for the whole time that we have worked on networked computers. An announcement about this went out by e-mail to the entire staff, an announcement that explained what the software does and what the new icon, an eye, at the bottom of the screen would look like.

Shortly thereafter, a mild panic, presumably the product of paranoia combined with ignorance, arose among a few employees who noticed an eye staring at them from their computer screens, and they sought an explanation of whether the company had installed something to spy on them.

Nobody reads the memos. Nobody pays attention.

Except you — particularly those of you who have been coming back to this site for three years now. Keep coming. There will be more.



Posted by John McIntyre at 3:03 PM | | Comments (10)


Ummm--we have something similar where I work, and on occasion someone will access my pc remotely. It's the most unnerving thing to see that "ghost cursor" moving around by itself. Fortunately, they always warn me first!

Where I work the PC person - frequently in another state - sends out an interactive box asking me to click on yes to authorize permission to enter my computer. Probably just my paranoia, but I suspect that's just a courtesy.

pullin back the reins
trying to remain
tall in the saddle
when all that we had
well ran away
with a will of its own

-kd lang

Having previously been responsible for company-wide communication, I am not surprised at stories of people not reading things that affect their work lives.

It was always heartening to have people tell me they didn't have time to read my announcements when they were spending 10 to 15 minutes complaining to me about the new policy they never knew existed because they didn't take five minutes to read their e-mail each day.

Alas, they didn't appreciate my sarcasm at the point nearly as much as I enjoyed delivering it.

I had to smile during the Sunday School Christmas Pageant this morning, when one of the narrators (a Middle Schooler, I think) read, "...and it came to pass during the region of Caesar Augustus..."


To continue this particular slight topic drift: In OUR Christmas pageant Sunday, one child (also middle schooler, I think) read her piece:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whahm his favor rests."

GeorgiaGirl, we had Wisepeople. I had to ask my self, "Do I want to be this liberal?"

I decided, "Eh, what the hell..."

In the Catholic church I grew up in, the lectern was evidently fitted with a Bible that broke proper nouns into syllables (Gol-go-tha, Ne-bu-chad-nez-zar ...). This resulted in a 60-year-old man reading to us about "the churches in the province of uh-SEE-uh." You know -- as in uh-SEE-uh Minor ...

Actually the three Wise Men were Chiefs in the Baltimore Fire Service. It says right in the carol: "We three Kings we come from a fahr."

In defense of journalists who've ceased to read notes from technoids, from the perspective of one who's been both journalist and technoid and who loves and admires both species(generally, not always specifically), I submit any two examples (of your choosing) of tech memos as evidence of their incomprehensibility. Notable exceptions exist. They are, in my experience, however, as rare as journalists who know the first damn thing about client/server environments.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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