Months back, I told you how we started tracking errors and building a database.
We now have the first year's results.
In 2005, we had 328 errors - almost one a day.
Now some of you have seen more than one error a day in The Pantagraph. The ones we count in our database are errors leading to a Setting It Right note in the paper or some other errors, such as a misspelled headline, a line that tells you a story continues on page A12 when it's really page A11, or a continued story that, well, doesn't continue.
If I flop the "t" and "h" in "the" those are simply transposed letters and we would not write a Setting It Right.
That's not to mean we take any error lightly.
If we did, we wouldn't go to the trouble of creating the database and making staff members fill out an error form when they make a mistake.
But we also want to put these in context.
Each weekday The Pantagraph publishes, there are about 125,000 words and each Sunday, 350,000 words. So each year we write nearly 57 million words - which equates to 342 million characters. If we are 99.9 percent accurate that means that we will have 342,000 typos each year.
As I've written before about this, I'm very proud of the journalists who put together your local newspaper. We have a lot of talented, hardworking people. As you just read, they process a lot of words and do a very good job.
But we're not perfect.
Here are the types of errors we track and the number for the year.
Phone number 9
Credit line 2
Bad trim 2
Our worst month was April, with 36 errors. Our best was August with 20.
So far in January, we're almost right between those numbers.
And not all of these errors were created by our staff. Some came from sources, but most were from staff.
What can we do to cut errors?
We ask staff to go over a checklist before turning their stories over to editors. We have copyeditors use checklists before finishing a page.
I hope we can cut that number in 2006.
Our challenge is this: We're doing more stories for the paper and our folks also are contributing to a growing list of new products. Like many companies, we're not doing it with more people. That's not whining, it's just the way it is. So in some ways I'd be happy if we had the same number of errors in 2006 while we're producing a lot more.
But I'd like to see us get that number under 300. After our first month, we're right on goal to repeat last year.
Hopefully we can do a little better.
Customer service, part two
Last week, I asked readers to grade our newsroom on customer service and sought the following
Please send me an e-mail to the address at the bottom of this column and tell me
w Why you had a reason to contact the newsroom (engagement notice, obituary, photo reprint, story tip, sports results, etc.).
w What grade you would give our customer service (A/best, F/worst).
w A brief description of your experience (please keep to 100 words or less).
w Suggestions of how we could do a better job (again, please keep to 100 words or less).
Thanks to those who responded last week. We received a few more positive comments than negative, but we want as much feedback as possible to see if there are areas where we can improve.
Terry Greenberg is editor of The Pantagraph. Contact him at (309) 820-3230 or at tgreenbergyayaypantagraph