How an unfortunate typo went viral

By · Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

In the Syracuse community today, we are reading a story about how a typo on a sign outside a local high school went viral on social media, starting with Facebook.

Instead of “Martin,” the sign read “Martian” Luther King Day. The unfortunate misspelling caught the attention of someone passing by who snapped a photo with his cell phone and posted it on Facebook.

The good news is that the error was noticed by the school the day the sign went up, and the spelling was corrected. But by then, the Facebook posting had gone viral.

It’s a lesson in mistakes — and in correcting them.

Westhill Superintendent Stephen Bocciolatt, explains:

“The bottom line is it was misspelled. Obviously it’s unusual for us to misspell things. But mistakes happen. It was noticed and corrected immediately.”

We have always recommended that reporters and editors know the corrections policy at their news organizations so errors can be fixed in a timely manner. This advice is just as important for interns as it is for veterans.

This case of the misspelled name on the high school sign is a perfect example of how difficult it is today to take back something that is wrong. Errors online can be corrected in real time, true, instead of in the next print production cycle. But errors are also “out there” for more people to see. This error went well beyond the high school neighborhood and the Syracuse community.

Mistakes will always happen. It’s what we do about them that matters.

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