Teh New Zelaand Herlad

Written By: - Date published: 1:40 pm, November 18th, 2009 - 13 comments
Categories: Media - Tags: ,

Have you noticed how many spelling mistakes there are in the Herald these days? James at Editing the Herald has:

I’ve had quite a few emails over the past few days with spelling or grammar errors from either the print edition or the website, peaking, of course, with the misspelling of ‘Barak’ Obama’s name in a political article on page A2 late last week – a mistake that is still on the website as of writing. The fact that such a blatant mistake could get past the journalist, his subeditor and whatever proof-readers theoretically work at the newspaper is quite depressing, even if it is ‘just a typo’.

Sure, everyone knows what John Armstrong means by ‘Barak Obama’ but, to me, that isn’t the point. If I want to read spelling mistakes, I’ll read a blog. Newspaper owners and editors keep saying that one of the things that sets newspapers apart from blogs is professionalism. Despite the urgings of some, I haven’t been doing any quantitative analysis of things going on in the Herald over the year, but anecdotally it seems to me that such errors have become considerably more frequent over the past year. To me, it is carelessness, and once you start getting careless about things like spelling then why not get careless about news?

I don’t think it’s carelessness, the journos at the Herald are professional and they work as hard as anyone. The problem is structural – APN made a conscious decision two years ago to shore up its profit margins by sacking its subs. The decline in quality we’re seeing now is the inevitable result.

13 comments on “Teh New Zelaand Herlad”

  1. snoozer 1

    “If I want to read spelling mistakes, I’ll read a blog.”

    Brilliant. He’s the funniest guy on the interwebs.

  2. Lew 2

    I’ve often said (well, I said it once, at the pub) that James Coe deserves a knighthood for services to journalism.


  3. Rex Widerstrom 3

    APN did indeed “sack its subs” but that doesn’t mean no one is subbing the Herald. In fact it’s now subbed out (pun intended) to Pagemasters, who claim to have “55 sub-editors work[ing] at our Ellerslie headquarters, producing approximately 1000 pages a week”.

    Is the fee paid by APN so low that the trade-off is Pagemasters not spending sufficient time proofing so as to sustain their margins?

    Is the fee sufficient but management of the contract so poor (or non existent) that there’s no internal quality control over Pagemasters’ work?

    Are 55 subeditors simply not enough given that, in addition to the Herald, they’re also handling “the Herald on Sunday, the Aucklander community papers, the Listener weekly news magazine and regional daily newspapers Bay of Plenty Times, Northern Advocate, Hawke’s Bay Today, Daily Post and Wanganui Chronicle”?

    I’m surprised advertisers, if not shareholders, aren’t asking these questions and demanding some answers.

    • Lew 3.1

      I’m surprised advertisers, if not shareholders, aren’t asking these questions and demanding some answers.

      You have your answer right there: clearly they don’t think it’s worth it.


      • Rex Widerstrom 3.1.1

        I guess they don’t, Lew. But I still don’t understand why.

        They might not care if their erectile dysfunction advert was next to some horrendous typo in the Sunday News because its readership (and their target market) probably couldn’t spot it anyway.

        But surely those peddling European motors and suits to the A/B readers of the Herald are concerned about whether they’re scoffing at “Barak” Obama and, by implication, the credibility of the advertising?

        [Okay so I’ve just used “credibility” and “advertising” in the same sentence. But advertisers like to believe their campaigns convey credibiliity].

        • Lew

          Rex, I recall us having this conversation once before, complete with slow-motion head-shaking, shrugs and sighs. I don’t get it either, geezer.


      • They have no choice. What other daily newspaper in Auckland are they going to advertise in?

        The Herald takes its monopoly for granted…and at the same time sees it as the platform for furthering the political goals of its proprietors.

        Aucklanders are doubly screwed…and as usual…..no one in NZ who cares about good journalism has the capital to launch an alternative.

  4. Deus ex Machina 4

    This might be inadequate subbing resources, it could just as easily be inept subbing. In my field, education, it is depressing how many CV’s and applications from qualified teachers contain basic spelling errors and incorrect grammar. If challenged the response is often that the rules do not matter as long as the intended meaning can be comprehended. Thus as long as it is obvious that the article was referring to the President of the United States of America, where lies the problem?

    As standards are slipping in so many other areas why should language be exempt?

    • Galeandra 4.1

      Suggest you change schools! Not my experience at all. Mind you, I’d lack the hide to confront people about their little accidents in personal documents.
      Consider,too, that many of us have taught ourselves to type (of necessity, despite the onset of decrepitude), and typographical errors can be hard to spot, yet to a reader appear as errors of understanding.

  5. AnneE 5

    The Dominion Post is just as bad. I’ve stopped counting the plural noun/singular subject combos (“the numbers…is”), but there are plenty of other mistakes to make me wince – e.g. seeds being “sewn”, a recent obit where the past tense of shine was “shined”, and innumerable errors involving either a missing definite article or one inserted where it shouldn’t be. I hate to ask this, but is it possible that the new subs do not have English as their mother tongue? Some of the errors are so strange that they’re hard to explain otherwise.

    • The Voice of Reason 5.1

      Sadly, there are no new subs, AnneE.

      Both APN and Fairfax have been laying off subs, as they concentrate that function in ‘sub hubs’. The local knowledge that senior journos bought to newspapers is being dumped in favour of relying on cheap, straight from polytech talent and that guarantee of editorial quality, spellcheck.

      There is bugger all journalism left in NZ, but a hell of a lot of rehashing of press releases.

  6. wellwisher 6

    You’re so right!

    The Hearld has long since got rid of its more competent subeditors, and the two main guys still there are known for their slavering adherence to anything the outfit comes up with. (One stormed out in a huff a while back, but is now back — go figure.)

    The headings are mainly the old boring ‘label’ type, and the spelling is egregious.

    If it wasn’t for road smashes, inept politicians, violent crime, and cars or buses running into the side of buildings, there wouldn’t be much filling the gaps between the ads.

    As for English as their mother tongue, they’re being taught by people who were taught by people long since divorced from such matters.

  7. wellwisher 7


    a couple of minutes’ glance at today’s website, which I assume is the same as the print version…

    lead story…
    a mysterious “Mr Harvey” appears part-way through. bad bad bad…

    then in the Antarctic story…

    It seems large numbers of tourists go there in “boats” … I don’t think so

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