As everyone knows, Dr. Who is back, for the 13th iteration, or regeneration, as the writers of the BBC science fiction TV series like to say. And this time, for the first time, Dr. Who is a woman, the versatile British actress Jodie Whittaker.
But a funny thing happened when the news was announced worldwide when a newspaper and its online website ran a headlined with a glaring typo in it: “BBC reveals Jodie Whittaker as next ‘Docotr Who’ star.”
The news article was from the Reuters News Service in London, and the photo was from the Associated Press in the U.S., but the headline was typed in by a copyeditor at a newspaper in Taiwan, where, since it was late at night, the typo was not seen before the newspaper was put to bed and no editors at the main desk caught it either.
These things happen at newspapers all the time. Just as “to err is human,” it is also true that “to make a typo is human.” I’ve made them in my life as a newspaper editor myself, once writing that a local woman in Juneau, Alaska had gone “widow shopping” when, of course, I meant to type in “window shopping.”
But I didn’t see my mistake until it was too late and the typo appeared in print the next day. Egg on my face.
These things happen in the newspaper business around the world all the time. So when I was reading my local English-language expat newspaper the other day in Taipei and the Dr. Who news story caught me eye, I had to chuckle when I saw the typo.
Instead of ”Doctor Who,” the editor, or some gremlin in the computer late at night in the newsroom, typed in “Docotr Who” by mistake. It was a typographical mistake, and that’s why we call these things “typos.”
But remember, the Dr. Who show is a science fiction TV series, and in science fiction anything can happen. Giant three-eyed squids can wrestle in outer space, and characters in a sci-fi novel or movie can travel both back in time and forward in time to the future. So when this recent BBC headline typo appeared, I posted a photo of my Facebook page and a witty man in Australia, Evan Shapiro, a PR guy and published novelist, commented about the typo: “Luckily, Dr. Who can travel back in time to fix the typo.”
I didn’t think of that! Problem solved!
So far the typo has not been fixed. It cannot be fixed in the print edition of the newspaper, what some pundits call a “snailpaper,” because it arrives with news that is already 24 hours old. But on the Taipei newspaper’s website, the typo can still be fixed, and if Dr. Who won’t travel back in time to fix it, perhaps the website’s editor will fix it once they see this blog post online.
Humor makes the world go ’round, and I love humor. It takes my mind off the deep blue funk of contemplating runaway global warming and inexorable climate change impact events that might end up putting an end to this wonderful civilization we humans have built up over the past 10,000 years.
Speaking of humor, there’s another newsroom term you might not have heard of yet, and it’s called an “atomic typo.” What’s that, you ask?
An atomic typo is a very small, minor typo, usually just one letter in the wrong place, that even Spell Check cannot “see” since the word is spelled right but is being used in the wrong context. It’s such a small typo that like an atomic particle, it is very small indeed. Words like country for county, or nuclear for unclear, or Sudan for sedan. The term was coined by a newspaper editor in Florida in 2004 and is popular now in the Digital Age we live in.