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Public editor: How The Globe discovers and corrects errors

The skybox of The Globe and Mail on Sept. 20, 2013, contained a deliberate math error to illustrate a story about the math discovery method. It wasn’t obvious that the error was made deliberately, though, and a note to readers was run on Sept. 21 to explain this.


If you are a fan of page A2 in the paper and the corrections online, you will be interested to know how we find out about errors.

As part of my job, I sometimes do the research and generally write the corrections. A large number of corrections come from staff members who spot errors in their work or hear about an error from a source quoted. This is often when you see items correcting titles or the spelling of a name. Staff members do a good job of passing these on to their editors or to me to have the record corrected.

Then there are many who come from you and it is greatly appreciated. They come in online. If you click on the comments, you will see a box urging you to connect if you see a mistake or typographic error. The typos are fixed by editors and the error requests are sent to me. Some come in as letters to the editor, some directly to my inbox.

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A few recently caused a minor flood of e-mails.

The first was a week ago Friday, when a very clever skybox in the paper (that's the illustration above the Globe and Mail nameplate) showed math times tables to point to a story inside about the math discovery method. It cleverly included one error, but clearly it wasn't obvious that the error was made deliberately. I received an early call from one former teacher who asked if The Globe was running a contest and if she would get a prize for catching the error in the times table. Many others though thought it was an error.

So we ran this:

Note to readers: Friday's front page blackboard illustration titled Recalculation included a deliberate error in pointing to an article on discovery-based math. So repeat after us: 8 times 7 is 56 (not 46 as show). But you knew that.

The second was not deliberate, but was an error in fact and many of you caught it right away. A feature on the Kingston Penitentiary incorrectly said Steven Truscott was an inmate. In fact, with the help of author Julian Sher – whose book Long Ride into History is the authority on Mr. Truscott – we ran this correction on Tuesday:

A Monday sidebar article and photo caption on the closing of the Kingston Penitentiary incorrectly described Steven Truscott as an inmate. In fact, Mr. Truscott spent just one night there. He was transferred to the Ontario Training School for Boys near Guelph, and then as an adult to Collins Bay Penitentiary in Kingston before his acquittal.

The mistake was not made in the main article by author Stevie Cameron who is writing a book on the Kingston Penitentiary.

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And finally, many of you like to write with tongue-in-cheek about spelling errors you see. On Saturday, an article on Jordan included a small headline which said travellers can camp "in the dessert…"

That slip of the keyboard caused some of you to wonder if the camping included "Nanaimo bars … chocolate cake or ice cream." Or this letter, which is very clever:

As a spelling pedant I was initially bewildered and soured by the lead paragraph of your article about travel in Jordan (An Unexpected Peace-Travel-Sat Sept 28) which promised to describe camping "in the dessert". All became clear and sweet when the author eventually spoke of mountains "that look like heaps of dried-up brown sugar". Kudos for the witticism, even if accidental.

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More


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