Monday, June 04, 2007

A dearth of copy editors?

Grand Rapids Press editor Mike Lloyd's column yesterday had an interesting misspelling: he referred to a "dirth" of information on West Coast locations in a recent Michigan travel ad insert.

The correct spelling, of course, is d-e-a-r-t-h.

Doncha love it when the editor has a spelling error? Makes you wonder if he writes his own columns, or if he has anyone edit them for him, or if the copyeditors are too timid to point out mistakes.

Meanwhile, the column was interesting. It's a good reminder to us that the public doesn't always distinguish between advertising and editorial content. There's an ethical issue there in making paid-for media with a persuasive intent look like actual reportage, which is supposed to remain objective. But, usually that's clear by printing "paid advertisement" or "advertising supplement" on a piece. Also, most people should be able to infer by the tone and lack of familiar bylines that an item is adverising and not journalism.

Mike Lloyd makes the good point that advertising content is as useful as reporting to many people. This is something we academics call "ad utility." It's easy to assume that it is hard to get people's attention with advertising in this fast-paced, high-tech environment. But many people seek specific, useful information in ads on a regular basis.

I, meanwhile, will be seeking a humble correction for the spelling error from "his Lloydship."

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