Banks' Notes 31.03.06

AMONG the babies thrown out with the bath water when Wapping pulled the plug on hot metal were proofreaders and copyholders.

Unlike the spell-check programs that replaced them, proofreaders were more than just spelling and grammar pedants.

They checked for sense, queried "facts", questioned legality. They were often assertive, sometimes downright rude. But they saved many a journalist’s reputation, if not career, with their prod-nosing.

What brings on this nostalgic bile? Just this: I’m sick of woeful spelling, such as ‘lead’ instead of ‘led’; I’m horrified at the schoolyard literals that produce "to small" rather than "too small" and "there"

instead of "their". I shudder at the poor grammar and at the embarrassing apologies (and I’m not talking about tabloids here, as they NEVER have the decency, unless forced, to apologise!) made necessary by obvious, pitiful gaps in the writer/sub’s general knowledge.

Well done to The Observer for lifting Supplement of the Year with its Food Monthly, but what about human proofreading to weed out such recent Observer mag mistakes as ‘massacre’ instead of ‘mascara’ and ‘diary’ instead of ‘dairy’ — errors quite obviously ignored (or even created) by the dumb spell-check?

OK, so we’ve seen the last of the NGA, SoGAT, NatSoPA and a host of other ink-stained acronyms. But can’t editors find a pound or two in the annual purse to finance an effective editorial proofreading system?

I REGRET to announce that The Sunday Telegraph’s gain has been Times Business readers’ loss. No, I’m not talking about any lowering of journalistic standards since business editor Patience Wheatcroft left The Chunderer to take up her editorship at the girly STella.

Her replacement, Robert Cole, is doing an excellent job on the words-and-wisdom front, but cripes, just look at the difference when it comes to fronting up the column. Where the haughty dominatrix Ms Wheatcroft was all blonde and pastel pashmina-style wrap, poor old Robert’s photo image is that of a sobersuited meat-and-two-veg man. I’ve seen better figures in a Trinity Mirror annual report.

Memo to Robert: lose the tie, ruffle the hair and dress down in colourful check shirt and chinos. Memo to Patience: You’re the boss, in future you model the fashion spreads!

CONGRATULATIONS to Colin Patterson, recently appointed editor of the Sunday Sun in Newcastle. I drink and play dominoes with his dad, Ramsay, in my local in Northumberland, and I’m sure — had he lived to see me made editor — that my dad would have been as proud of me as Ramsay is of his lad’s achievements. Nice to see that journalists from humble beginnings can still reach the top, even in the 21st century.

davidbanks@pressgazette.co.uk

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