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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Minus-35: Getting it right, for Karin's sake

Now I know what Barb Karol was talking about.

Well, I shouldn’t say that, because I’ve always gotten the point. But, when you see the human side of it, it’s even more clear that my first newswriting teacher at Kent State had it right when she took 35 points off if you happened to spell a name wrong.

“Most people’s names are only in the newspaper twice — when they’re born and when they die,” Karol would say.

She would use different ways to describe the other appearances of their names, saying it could happen if they’re in trouble or they’ve done something spectacular.

She said our names, as reporters, writers or even editors, are in the paper all the time. After a while, we get used to seeing our names.

But when most people see their name in the paper, it’s a big deal. They cut it out. They show their friends. They call their families. They post links on Facebook and Twitter.

If the names are spelled right.

If it’s spelled wrong, they hide it, or talk to their friends, family — even Facebook and Twitter — about how dumb you are.

Karol’s constant admonition — combined with the fact that she should know, because her last name is spelled K-a-r-o-l — has always caused me to be really careful.

You never know how people’s names are spelled. Creative parents can cause mistakes simply by adjusting the end of the name Mary to be Maree, or John to be Jon.

You always ask. Then, when you know, you spell it the way they spell it.

That’s the key part.

That came to mind this week when Karin told me I got her name wrong.

Yes, it’s K-a-r-i-n.

And I knew it. She’s Karin on all my lists. She’s Karin on the blog I set up for her in our weight-loss contest, Lighten Up in 2011.

The only place she wasn’t Karin was in the story introducing Karin to News-Herald readers.


Even worse was that I also got her weight wrong.

Though a couple of e-mails made me feel the guilt, it took typing the correction to understand the true scope of the error:

Karin Ostroske of Euclid weighs 244 pounds. Incorrect information appeared in Sunday’s edition.


Because it’s the third year of Lighten Up, I know how important it is. I know what these brave people are putting on the line when they say they want to go on a diet — in public — and have their weight charted — in the newspaper and online — for six months.

Karin showed great humor in her notes to me on Sunday morning after she saw the errors, saying she and her husband shared a laugh over the fact that she hadn’t noticed the 30-pound weight loss I’d said she had undergone.

But, as she pointed out, her real concern was that on Feb. 26, when we meet up for the second weigh-in of the contest, that she’ll post a 30-pound gain.

She said she would be embarrassed. Thirty pounds in a month? Yeah, I’d be embarrassed, too.

I immediately fixed it online, while sitting at home in my jammies, head in my hands as I worried about how angry Karin was. But, unless I headed out with a black magic marker and made stops at about 45,000 homes around three or four counties, there was no way to quickly fix the printed version.

The next day, when I got to work, I filed the correction. That’s when I thought of Karol.

Her minus-35 would have meant an instant F on the project. Which is as it should be.

A factual error

Luckily, I’ll have five more months to make it right. In the meantime, look out for K-A-R-I-N O-S-T-R-O-S-K-E.

I have a feeling she’s going to be giving me plenty of reasons to type her name.


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