My regular 4 p.m. headlines popped into my inbox from a local news organization. I just scanned the headlines. From this, I know that Evel Knievel died, there were problems with the Reverse 911 system during the wildfires, and there’s a person passing himself off as a phony water employee out there.

I also read about a significant development with the seals at the Children’s Pool. The headline reads, “Children’s Pool To Be Dredged to Dispurse Seals.”

Dispurse? Really?

Dispurse is an alternate form of the word “disburse.” Picking up one of my favorite references, Paul Brians’ “Common Errors in English Usage,”

You disburse money by taking it out of your purse (French “bourse”) and distributing it. If you refuse to hand out any money, the eager mob of beggars before you may disperse (scatter).

So are we giving money to the seals, or scattering them to the sea?

Sure, most people get the intended meaning. But it makes me and many others like me wonder what other errors are being made. If you can’t pay attention to this sort of detail, what other details did you get wrong? Are you always this sloppy?

Mistakes detract from a journalist’s credibility. Writing errors introduce crosstalk that makes the already difficult job of sending and receiving information correctly more difficult.

Imagine the agony, even if temporary, of homeowners believing that they’d lost everything after seeing their address on a list of homes destroyed by wildfire, which turned out to be erroneous as Lisa F. described in her comment. Simple mistake? Not to them.

How about ambiguity? I’m going to call out Scott Lewis for the headline “Radio Waves Goodbye” from the SLOP blog link which appears right above my Café link on the Voice homepage.

Scott, for a moment I thought KPBS had cancelled “Editor’s Roundtable,” not an unreasonable conclusion following the now infamous cancellation of “Full Focus” by KPBS.

If this is all Mike Aguirre had time to read, he might be asking some tough questions about you right now, Scott.

American author Jim Rohn writes, “Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.”  

That’s journalism at its finest. That’s what I count on when it really matters, when airplanes fly into the Twin Towers, or my county is on fire.


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