Public Editor

July 23, 2014

How would you correct this Miss Manners error?

How to correct most mistakes is an easy call: You put a correction on Page A2. But sometimes a special case requires a different approach.

All syndicated content that runs in The Kansas City Star and on KansasCity.com is subject to editing in The Star’s newsroom. And many columns get trims of some sort, particularly for the print edition.

This is true of the “Miss Manners” column that runs three times a week in the FYI section. It’s usually sent out in a form that’s quite a bit longer than the space allotted in The Star, so it has to be cut down most of the time.

In this Tuesday section, it got an edit that swung the meaning of part of one of Judith Martin’s answers around 180 degrees.

The question asked if invitees to a wedding could hold off on giving a gift because of their current financial situation. In the original, untrimmed version, part of Miss Manners’ reply read:

You are even more wrong to believe that presents are a condition of admission to a wedding celebration.

However, in The Star that was incorrectly shortened to:

Presents are a condition of admission to a wedding celebration.

Obviously, those mean entirely different things. But explaining that it a correction on Page A2 is a difficult proposition. You could say something along the lines of, “An answer in the July 22 Miss Manners should have read…” But that would then be just a single sentence, completely out of context, and would require readers to go find the original column, then plug in the corrected sentence in their heads.

After consulting with The Star’s features editor Kathy Lu, we decided the whole item — question and answer — should be re-run in the next “Miss Manners” slot, with an editor’s note explaining the reason for the repeat. It’s too bad that this will take up valuable print space, but it’s the right thing to make sure the whole mistake gets corrected in context.

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