Thursday, February 18, 2010

Through the slips

Journalists are known to make the odd mistake, even when sober, but occasionally the error is far more entertaining than what should have appeared.

Sub-editors on The Times are often reminded to engage their brains when converting from imperial to metric after a 30kg bat (as in flying mouse) appeared on the news pages a few years ago. Readers quite rightly were amused or afraid at the thought of a flying creature built like an overweight labrador.

It can go the other way, too, as two years ago someone converted a 33cm-tall koala into one measuring 85 inches. The briefest pause for thought should have made the sub realise that they were describing a marsupial measuring more than seven feet from pointy toe to bushy ear.

If the bear really was that big, the Australian rugby selectors would have shaved him and placed him in the second row.

Anyway, I write not to pick up the delightful traces of human error in my own paper but to raise a cock-up elsewhere. The Guardian's Corrections and Clarifications column is often worth a read and one note in this week's paper made me smile:
"Regarding a phrase in our obituary of Dick Francis (15 February, page 36), a reader writes: 'The concept of an 'unauthorised autobiography' is an interesting one!'"
Maybe he wrote it in his sleep?


johnmc said...

The koala bear thing might just explain Justin Harrison, then

Angus Donald said...

Considering that Dick Francis is rumoured not to have written his own novels, perhaps he didn't write (or even authorise) his own autobiography.

Perhaps it was a sub who wrote it for him. OK, silly idea. Could you imagine a celebrity writer, say a sports columnist in The Times, who didn't write his own column? – Heaven forfend! What a scandal that would be . . .

Paddy said...

True, Angus. Although I presume he would still have authorised a ghosted autobiog. Or maybe not. And death needn't be a barrier to writing. Perhaps Francis will carry on writing works in the future, as Virginia Andrews did despite dying in the 1980s. Does death make them authorised or not?