Saturday, 15 December 2007

Istanballs-ups at the International Herald Tribune

There are many International Herald Tribune offices (not as many as there were, but that's another story), each with many little birds within them, often spread over one or more floors. One little bird let know that this blog has come to the attention of at least some members of the IHT's Paris newsroom.

The discussion overheard about this blog was not very flattering I am afraid to report, plus quite a bit of surprise that anyone should write such a blog ('they', the newsroom do write about 'us', the rest of the world for a living, so why the surprise I don't know. I found a photo of Gordon Brown's empty place setting, at the EU treaty signing in Lisbon, on the front page of yesterday's IHT a surprise, so I guess we can all be surprised).

Naturally my grammar, typos, split infinitives et al received a well-deserved bashing from copy editors, many who spend their entire careers sorting these things out (many had perhaps hoped to win a Pulitzer, some still do but let's not forget that most of the Paris newsroom is made up of shift-working copy editors, as opposed to what one might call 'journalists'.)

The main concern, as reported to me by my little bird, was that this blog should be 'accurate', and that's certainly a goal I share with the IHtwittering class in Neuilly.

To my knowledge, thus far, I have made only one factual error, having mistakenly identified a current IHT employee as an 'ex-employee', a mistake I immediately corrected as soon as it was brought to my attention by a posting on this blog.

I think that given my in-house capacity here to research, write and edit, and given the many more column-inches (is that with a hyphen? I don't know and I haven't the time to check) published by the IHT, that my goal will be to be at least as accurate as the IHT.

How accurate is that? My guideline is going to be how many corrections the IHT is obliged to publish every day.

For example, an article last Tuesday about the sentencing of Conrad Black 'misstated the proximity of the federal prison', where Black will probably serve his sentence, to his Palm Beach home. The IHT was forced to concede yesterday in its Corrections section that a prison that is 500 miles away from his home could not be described as 'near'.

Better (or worse) still was the embarrassing correction, also published yesterday, which reminded IHT journalists and copy editors (and probably not that many of its readers) that the capital of Turkey is not Istanbul but Ankara.

Things went downhill from there (actually northeast) in the original article last Monday on ethnic tensions in northern Iraq's oil city of Kirkuk.

The original article stated that the area of Turkey where most Kurds live as being in the northeast of Turkey. It is in fact in the southeast.

And the ethnic background of a member of the Kirkuk Provincial Council who was quoted in the article is in fact Turkmen (sic?), not Arab.

That's pretty good going, given the subject matter.

So I'm going to call my accuracy measure for this blog the 'Istanbul Test'.

If any reader spots any inaccuracies in this blog please let me know immediately, but please could you spare me copy editing corrections on grammar, spelling and typos.

Istanballs-ups only please.

(For American IHT copy editors, a 'balls-up' is with a hyphen and is British vulgar slang for a bungled task or action.)

I'm also interested in any inaccuracies published in the IHT which are NOT corrected.

You can write to me on either subject at

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