The Playgoer: NYT Illiteracy (or, The Empty Space and The Extra S)

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Monday, July 17, 2006

NYT Illiteracy (or, The Empty Space and The Extra S)

A new low in sloppiness at NY Times theatre.

From Saturday's review of NJ Shakespeare's Cherry Orchard:

While the talented Mr. Howard’s Lopakhin seems at first too genteel, lacking the rough-hewn “son of a peasant” manner that Brian Dennehy perfected during the 1988 “Cherry Orchard,” directed by Peter Brooks at the Brooklyn Academy...
Whether it's the critic or the copyeditor's fault, a decent theatre section should be able to safeguard against this kind of embarassment. And here it is online still three days later. Let's see if they correct it. (Anyone still have the print edition?)

Negligible error? Or a subtle sign of decline of the Grey Lady's authority in such matters?... Yes, typos happen. And increasingly frequently at NYT, it seems, ever since they apparently moved to spellcheck. But this is not a spellcheck-mistake. Someone had to willfully add that 's'.

("Brooklyn Academy" is also weird and not really correct. It's Brooklyn Academy of Music, of course. Or else, "BAM.")

Hey, at first I was impressed by the reference at all. Be nice to know the director had nothing to do with The Producers, though...

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Contrapositive for noticing, in Comments, that the review actually seems to have appeared in the Times Metro (or "The Region") section, being that the production is in New Jersey. (How's that for covering regional theatre?) The name of the reviewer, Naomi Siegel, was indeed new to me. So the Arts editors are off the hook... Still, online, the review is linked from the Theatre page, so the distinction will not be immediately apparent to a web reader.


Art said...

Maybe not enough people are even reading.

Arts Journalism isn't safe, even in the non-profit sector,

Just ask Bill Marx of our Local NPR affiliate:

I was shocked. WBUR was really starting to gear up with their online presence.

J. Kelly said...

Hyperbole alert! An added letter to a director's name is a new low in sloppiness? Get some perspective, please...

Contrapositive said...

Yeah, I think you're being a bit harsh. Especially given that it seems not to have been an Arts section review: The web version at least makes it seem like the review ran in the "New Jersey" section of the Sunday paper.

Or am I mistaken?

Playgoer said...

Contrapositive is right about the section the review appeared in. So I've duly noted in a postscript to the post.

Still--c'mon guys. Peter Brook is inarguably the most pre-eminent living theatre director in the English language. For the Times not to know how to spell his name would be pretty embarassing to say the least.

And, yes, typos happen. I make plenty of awful ones myself... But as I think I effectively argued, this is not a classic typo. It would be hard to spell his name that way if you really knew it.

I do concede, though, it seems not to have anything to do with the arts editors.

Anonymous said...

Just not with you on that Garrett, considering the deadline pressures that are on daily papers, the vast amount of typos/incorrectly written names (from all sections) that are corrected on a daily basis right up front in the Times, and the fact that when it comes to names, proofreaders are somewhat useless unless they are specialists.

Also, I once worked as an assistant editor at a theatrical publishing house, and I certainly corrected an additional "s" off of Peter Brook's name on multiple occasions put there by writers who knew his work very well indeed. It IS easy for some people to do that.

Some writers, perfectly good ones, don't write or remember names with 100% accuracy, and very few copyeditors anywhere have specific knowledge to correct names that they don't know (I was valuable at a theatrical book publisher because I DID have that knowledge, and could RE-"correct" the first names of, for example, Word Baker and Roberts Blossom back from "Ward" and "Robert" when other copyeditors had assumed a mistake had been made).

This is nothing compared to, say, the occasions when The New Yorker published extended profiles of Paul Shaffer and Penn Jillette and misspelled their last names throughout the articles . . .

Playgoer said...

I can tell it's not in my interest to keep beating this horse. But...

All I'll say is, the guy's name is Peter Brook. How hard is that? It's not an unusual spelling. It's not a transliteration from Cyrillic characters. (And you can bet I spellchecked "Cyrillic"!) It's pretty simple. "Brooks" is not a misspelling. It is a different name.

I agree the New Yorker instances you cite, Ian, are worse. But Shaffer and Jillette do have many variant spellings, and the correct one isn't apparent when you say those names.

If you're saying "Brooks" you just don't know the guy's name. And if it did appear that way in print, on the front of Arts & Leisure, I think they would have had real egg on their faces.... But of course it didn't, so they don't.

By the way, I've scanned the print editions from over the weekend, and I couldn't find the review anywhere. So it looks like a cyber-dump, a backhanded favor to New Jersey Shakes, agreeing to review them, but sending an ill-informed 3rd-stringer and running it online only, under Metro.

Anyway, I'm happy to leave it there, realizing I've made a total curmudgeon of myself once again. (And you can bet I spellchecked that one, too.)