The lesson, hammered by countless journalism teachers for century(s), was intended to be cattle-branded into minds of aspiring writers who would go forth to inform readers about what’s going on in the world. And it was emphasized that “getting it right” was preferable to “getting it first.”
In recent years, of course, so many new ways to “get it first” hog the spotlight, with accuracy often languishing somewhere in the shadows.
When our teacher’s voice ramped up to bold face emphasis, we knew a test-worthy admonition followed. “When a person dies, for goodness’ sake, spell the name right. It may be the third and last time it will appear in print.” (The other two times, for those still reading, referenced birth and marriage.)
Her eyes would cross, were she alive today, upon learning that names may appear in print gazillions of times, if one counts social media. Never mind they often are misspelled at best, and perhaps wrong on both first and last names at worst.
She’d be dizzy, too, about news dissemination — instantaneous here, there and everywhere.
Oh, she’d adapt, just as she did during days as a society page editor for a regional West Texas newspaper. During her tenure, the newspaper started noting births — as well as marriages — of minority group members. (A few years earlier, newspapers “plowed new ground,” in reporting the deaths of such folks, but that’s another story.)
Providing evidence that progress has been made in social justice, an oft-quoted comment comes to mind. I’m not sure who first said it. It’s worthy of consideration by every generation.
“We ain’t what we want to be. We ain’t what we ought to be. But, thank God, we ain’t what we used to be.”