Nobody wants to look stupid.
In fact most of us spend a good deal of time trying to avoid it, but sometimes you fire off an e-mail without checking the attachment is actually attached or you add a comment to an online discussion only to see the howling spelling error after it’s too late.
Sometimes the problem is a bit bigger than that.
Take the case of Taylors of Harrogate, the makers of Yorkshire Tea. Recently they decided to celebrate Yorkshire by making a special edition called Northern Echo. This just happens to be the name of a local newspaper which includes parts of Yorkshire in its circulation area.
With an eye for a perfect piece of PR they sent a box of the tea to the paper’s editor Peter Barron.
Unfortunately they had spelled the word Northern without the second ‘r’. The box of tea was emblazoned with the word ‘Northen’ and was now sitting on the desk of one of the nation’s senior journalists. Whoops!
Peter Barron was very charitable when he wrote about the incident in his blog
But it’s always better to get it right the first time don’t you think? What howlers have you made and dare you admit to them?
I don’t often buy a newspaper and nor it seems do my friends. I do still get a Guardian on Saturdays though.
This weekend I was enjoying half an hour with the news pages when it struck me that this was not news to me at all. I knew it all already.
OK not every last story, but a significant number of articles were based on items I had already picked up on Twitter during the week.
Let’s look at them. The Haiti earthquake, obviously. Then there was a piece about Fox News and Rupert Murdoch which was basically a re-write of something I had already read in the New York Times. I was directed there by someone on Twitter.
There was a story about the big dairy companies failing to pick up milk from farmers during the snow. This I knew already because I go walking with someone who knows someone who works for Dairy Crest.
Then there was ‘Bad Science’ a column by one of my favourite writers Ben Goldacre, who already tweeted his source material during the week….a very funny spoof piece about Woolworth stores lining up on ley lines, do check it out. But this meant his piece came as no surprise either.
Now I’m starting to wonder what’s going on and how I feel about it. It would appear that throughout the week I am my own editor. I have selected the news that interests me via Twitter. I have also talked to real people who have told me things. I am my own journalist.
Do I wish I had not devoted half an hour of my life to reading this again, this time on newsprint ? No, because it is actually quite re-assuring. My newspaper of choice has selected the stories that I am interested in, it has confirmed my identity, ‘I am a Guardian reader.’
This is an important function of newspapers today. To re-assure people about who they are. To confirm their choices and in some cases their prejudices. People like to read reports about the snow not because they don’t know we had a blizzard and got snowed in, but to re-assure themselves that it did indeed happen and our inconvenience was real.
Raw news picked up from Twitter may inform our minds but does it feed the part of us that wants to be told who we are ?