IMR: 1999: September: 01 —  Wednesday, 11:01 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

Some people collect stamps. Others, Beanie Babies. Me? I keep it simple, focused. I collect gaffes in the local papers.

[ Advertiser Goof ]

Actually, as far as I know, every instructor at the UH journalism department has a stash, and more than a few students have built scrapbooks too. Everything from typos to printing errors to just unfortunate photo placements. The above was nabbed in March, on the main sports page in The Honolulu Advertiser. Someone apparently expected someone else to do the writing further down the assembly line, but no one did.

Admittedly, mistakes in newspapers are boring compared to on-air flubs by broadcast journalists. I have it on good authority that the official KHNL news blooper tape is the funniest thing this side of the San Andreas fault.

But that's television. As a print snob, I figure ineptitude just comes with the territory.

When a newspaper screws up, though... that means a whole chain of supposedly bright wordsmiths had to have had a simultaneous brain fart. And while the caption mistake above was pretty bad, it pained me to discover an even more wince-worthy flub in yesterday's Star-Bulletin.

[ Star-Bulletin Goof ]

I make no secret of my loyalty to our beleagured afternoon daily, and I honestly feel it's the better newspaper when it comes to genuine and in-depth coverage of local communities. But they've put out their share of head-scratchers.

There was the recent front-page series on a transsexual canoe paddler, for one. I'm all for alternative lifestyles, but still — for a minute I thought I was looking at a fantastically thick Honolulu Weekly. And now? "The Genesis spacecraft project manager hails from Hawaii xyxyxyxyxy."

In a headline? On page one? That trumps the Advertiser's "skadfj lksdjf" photo cutline by at least six points.

As it stands, though, the Advertiser is still ahead in the boo-boo tally. Especially after the Advertiser's unfortunate headline choice in last Tuesday's issue. It was technically flawless, but horrendous by its implication. Brislin had pointed it out that morning in our first ethics class meeting...

But first, some background.

The story was part of ongoing coverage of the high-profile Dana Ireland murder case. The 23-year-old from Virginia was bicycling along a rural road on the Big Island when she was run down, raped, savagely beaten and left for dead. It was Christmas Eve, 1991, and after massive delays in summoning emergency assistance, she later died.

Almost nine years later, the first of three suspects was finally being tried: Frank Pauline, Jr., who confessed to participating in Ireland's murder in 1994 but later recanted. The article in question was reviewing the case for his defense, in which his attorneys claimed the whole state was biased against him in part because he was being portrayed as a bumbling criminal.

Now, a bit about newspaper headlines and use of the colon.

There are two ways colons are employed. One, to attribute an opinion or declaration, like, Clinton: 'I didn't inhale', or Reno: 'Oops, my bad'. Or two, to serve as an anchor for a "jump hed" when an article starts on one page and continues on another. If there's a piece on arson running from page B1 to B13, for example, the continuation has a headline like, Fires: Investigators seek answers.

Straightforward? Can most readers figure it out? Well, this particular article was about Pauline's testimony in the Ireland trial, and it jumped from page A1 to A12. And the headline for the continuation was:

Ireland: 'I may be dumb, but I didn't kill anyone'

I leave for New Zealand in three days. As is the case before any major meeting, things at the office are getting frantic and colorful. Fortunately, Jen and Katie visited for lunch today, bringing some much needed smiles and sighs.

I'm a bit nervous, of course, and feeling a bit insecure. Independent of next week's proceedings and the big annual conference looming next March, things are changing at work. Of course there's the physical office expansion that is now officially behind schedule, but we've also learned in the last few days that longtime staffers are soon leaving and new people will simultaneously be coming aboard.

I'm almost reluctantly losing my status as 'the new kid,' and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm yet showing any substantial increase in ability and productivity for my "mere" one year with the organization. Especially since many of the people staying behind for this trip, frankly, seem like they'd be so much more useful in Auckland than I would.

Sure I can troubleshoot a rented LAN setup, but can I help draft a policy statement on financial services liberalization? Running a speech through OCR and posting it on the web is no problem, but what about answering a question from an internationally reknowned CEO without sounding like an idiot? I still have much to learn.

I'm always running in high gear, certainly, netting more headaches in one month than I had in three years. Sure I proudly restart my computer every few hours, having again successfully launched too many programs and opened too many files than it can handle. But yet I still wonder if I'm living up to my coworkers' expectations. If I'm still essentially just a senior intern.

Everyone else seems to do so much more, I guess. I don't know how they do it, and I know it's not just because they actually got their college degrees.

I don't help matters much by being such an imbecile when it comes to accepting compliments, either. They do come up now and then, believe it or not, when I've tamed a wild database or somehow untwisted the knots Windows NT sometimes ties itself in. But they're so unexpected, and I'm such a dork, that I rarely manage to reply with more than a scrunched up face and a random grunting noise.

If I really am being helpful, dammit, I wish they wouldn't be so gracious about it.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 01 September 1999 · Last Modified: 02 September 1999