Tom Hoffarth is no doubt celebrating the attention his blog post about Erin Andrews received. If only he gave that much attention to his spelling. It’s been a sticking point since everyone and his/her pet began blogging. How important are spelling and grammar?
But Hoffarth is no casual blogger who caught a flyer. He is a staff columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. Granted, it’s not close to the L.A. Times, but I think the News employs copy editors.
Why then, did he describe her as “self-depricating” and note her “naivety”? (NOTE: Both misspellings have been corrected. I guess a lot of folks like me are serving as after-the-fact copy editors.) And why, in a comment to Jim Romenesko’s blog, did he say, “I cant’ believe others in the media dont’ see through it anymore.” (I’m shocked that Romenesko cut him a break in correcting those as well.)
In his Twitter profile, Hoffarth describes himself as a “bad speller.” So does that give him an excuse to play fast-and-loose with his spelling? Because he knows he does?
How would Hoffarth respond if Andrews misspelled such words in something she wrote? Would he crow that it was evidence of her incompetence instead of charm, as in his case?
His critique of Andrews was a recycle of past slams. As one of my students, Justin Ferguson (@theoneandonlyJF) noted, “(Hoffarth) just wrote her into the stereotype.” That works better than anything I could write.
But to my old-school way of thinking, Hoffarth undercuts his arguments with poor spelling — on early versions, at least. In the Auburn journalism program, we preach that spelling is as much a factual matter as news information. Students have to pass a spelling test with a score of at least 83 as part of our JRNL 1100 course, which all students must pass to apply to the major.
Misspellings, hardly endearing incompetence from a befuddled amateur, undercut a journalist’s credibility — whether a college student or an LA Daily News columnist.
Applying an analogy I’ve heard elsewhere, misspellings are like poop in a brownie mix. How much is too much? Would you eat brownies knowing that there was even one speck in there?
Hoffarth was celebrating the number of followers he picked up from his Andrews slam — though of course he coyly dismissed it as evidence of her undeserved fame. I’m not one of those followers. I’m still leery of the quality of what he’s serving up.
Related: TWER’s ESPN GameDay interviews, Part I: Erin Andrews and David Pollack.
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