Find the Error

News has interested me from my childhood. Not too long ago, news writers were literate folk who made certain of their facts — not to mention their spelling and grammar — before writing “-30-” on their work. And, if a writer’s work was hurried, a gaggle of editors would ensure that any omissions or errors were corrected before the piece in question saw print.

In an article today, Yahoo (via AP) notes a newly-discovered ancient, fortified Bulgarian town:

He [Professor Vasil Nikolov] said the walls, which are 3 meters (6 feet) high and 2 meters (4 ½ feet) thick, are believed to be the earliest and most massive fortifications from Europe’s prehistory.

There’s a problem, here: Six-foot-high fortification might keep out children, but wouldn’t be much deterrent to, say, an army with a stool . . . or one having mastered the concept of the ‘boost.’

The problem, of course, has nothing to do with the fortifications. The measurements are correct in metric; they’re just wonky in Imperial. In truth, the walls of the town are almost 10 feet high and almost seven feet thick — much more imposing.

It’s 2:48pm, my time, currently. I went back to the article in question and . . . gasp . . . it now reads:

He said the walls, which are 3 meters (10 feet) high and 2 meters (6 ½ feet) thick, are believed to be the earliest and most massive fortifications from Europe’s prehistory.

If you’d clicked the link I provided, you’d only have seen the corrected version. Internet publishing has several benefits and detriments. On the plus side, corrections to published text can be made almost instantaneously, though in some ways it’s a disadvantage. For example, if the IngSoc chocolate ration goes ‘up’ by negative 30 grams a week ago . . .

I think this particular error was ‘live’ for about an hour and a half, but it may have been less. I’ve seen gaffes in headlines (on several news sites) last for days. The upside of online publishing is that you can make corrections . . . magazines and newspapers bear witness that once ink hits paper, you’re pretty much committed.