minus 10% – accuracy in journalism

Most of my students know me as “the teacher who takes off 10 per cent” for misspelled proper names and CP Style infractions. I always tell them that the reason I do it, is to encourage them to be super super careful when they write stories — to check spellings of people’s names, and make sure –especially in obituaries — to be accurate because it will be clipped out, by the family, and laminated, and put in scrap books and kept.

The -10 per cent reputation even prompted some of them to buy me a lovely t shirt last year, with – 10 % on it. I wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or an insult, but my husband told me to wear it proudly to school the next day, and take it in a good way.
I know that this -10 per cent is not a happy thing for some students to read on their papers when I hand them back. I know how frustrated they seem to act when I give them one. I don’t do it to be mean spirited, and I don’t sit at my computer editing stories and rubbing my hands together with glee like the Wicked Witch of the West, when I find one. Truly! I don’t.
Today, some of my students in the University of Toronto/Centennial College joint journalism program had a chance to turn the tables on me. And to their credit, they were very diplomatic about it.
I had written a story for them to run in their local news paper, Observer, about a court trial now underway in Ontario Superior Court. We all covered it for a class assignment. And despite being careful, and checking, I apparently spelled the victim’s name wrong! Oops. When I came to work today, one of the students showed me where they’d posted my original story on the blackboard, with a nice green highlight through the mistake and a very tasteful -10% mark next to it. “I fixed it,” one of the students told me.
They may be dining out on this for a while!
And for the record, Colves Meggoe’s name is spelled with an “e”.

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