Wick Communications

Got the placeholder blues

In Editing on March 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

Earlier this week, I participated in a career day panel at a local high school. My panel was focused on “communications” – there was a public relations professional, an executive producer for a local cable television channel, a freelance writer and myself.

The public relations specialist told the students that she learned a lot about perfectionism when she was a proofreader for a newspaper earlier in her career. She remembered leaving “TK” in a story that called for the name of actor Jeff Bridges’ wife. She said the “to come” symbol still haunts her every time she sees Bridges in the movies.

The same day, stuffjournalistslike.com shared the goof you see in the photo above. It’s from the Independent of London and the story concerns The Royal College of General Practitioners, which has been grousing about health care reform.

I imagine a headline that ends with “astktnkansyttasasasasas” does not increase the credibility of the Independent with readers, advertisers or the general practitioners.

And it could be worse. There have been occasions in which newspapers have included really embarrassing things in stories — inside jokes, obscene innuendo and lord only knows what else — planning to take out the offensive material later. Such stories are legendary and funny only in retrospect, believe me. …

Some placeholders seem inescapable. For instance, the word “jumphead” appears on our jump page until we change it with each new edition. It seems harmless enough on the template, but some day we are sure to leave it there and feel foolish. It remains simply out of tradition.

By the way, I don’t think these placeholders are particularly effective as a memory aid anyway; after seeing the same “jumphead” placeholder in the same place, edition after edition, I don’t even see it any more.

Do you use placeholders? Still think they are a good idea?

Clay

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