When Emilie Davis, a newspaper journalism professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, picks up her nametag at an event, she often stares down at the more common spelling of her name, “Emily.” She is used to people misspelling her name, so she usually leaves it the way it’s written to not make it a big deal.
As Steve Davis, Emilie Davis’s husband, explained his wife’s silent frustration when people misspell her name, he said, “it never hurts to just double check.”
Steve Davis, also a newspaper journalism professor, as well as chair of the newspaper department at the Newhouse School, is very familiar with spelling mistakes and factual errors when it comes to news writing. Before coming to Newhouse, Davis had been the executive editor for the Public Opinion, the Chambersburg, Pa., community newspaper, and both national editor and Washington editor at USA Today.
“It’s a miracle how few mistakes there are when you consider the hundreds and thousands of articles published every day,” Davis said.
But even though he knows about all the hard work put toward error-free articles, he has still come to understand how unforgiving people can be when a journalist does make a mistake.
When a person’s name is spelled wrong an article, “the reaction can be deadly,” Davis said. In a business where one must present his work to people who will examine it, and after one mistake deem it “crap,” Davis said, “it takes bravery to do that every day.”
This harsh reality of the news writing industry provoked the thought process behind the Newhouse School’s spelling/grammatical/factual error grading policy in news writing and editing classes.
In the first half of the introductory news writing course, NEW 205, students receive an F for an article containing a single grammatical or factual error, or a misspelled word, including a name, which has stirred up some controversy between students and professors.
Bianca Rappaport, a second-year public relations major with junior standing who took NEW 205 her freshman year at SU, said that the policy is too hard on students.
“It sucks because you put so much work into something, and then you get it back with that big, fat F, Rappaport said. “Your stomach drops just thinking about all the time spent on, what? An F.”
Paul Kloster, a sophomore magazine major, also experienced this grading policy in NEW 205. Kloster said that with spelling and grammar check on most virtual mediums, it can be easy to fix most spelling errors. “Names are what killed me,” Kloster said. “A lot of names will have that red line under it (on a word document), but I’m so used to just hitting ignore.”
Kloster said that everyone he talked to in his class had gotten at least one F. “It seemed pretty unavoidable at one point or another,” Kloster said.
As students complain about this policy, Davis just has to think back to why it’s in place, and try his best to explain this reasoning to his...