Herniated dick? Ouch!

h/t blacksportsonline.com

Charlotte Observer executive sports editor Mike Persinger explains how “herniated dick” got into today’s newspaper:

Observer reporter Rick Bonnell wrote the preview box, and in it he wrote that Davis, a former Charlotte Hornet, is recovering from a “herniated disc” in his back. The box was edited by an experienced copy editor, the reporter’s first line of defense, and moved along in the production process as written.

The next stop was a final read by a second editor, another experienced employee who recognized that “herniated disc” doesn’t conform to the newspaper’s style for that type of injury, and that it should be “herniated disk.” That editor tried to type in the correction, but ended up with an unfortunate typo.

Because part of that second editor’s job is to send stories to the typesetter, the typo was moved along without another set of eyes to catch the error, and that led to what you saw in today’s paper. And no doubt to a lot of snickering.

I asked the sports editor what kind of reactions he’s getting. He emailed:

I haven’t gotten many direct calls. In this social media age, Twitter is the response vehicle of choice. Lots of cyber-giggling going on. Even @Baron_Davis has tweeted about the typo. Nice that he can laugh about it.

The person who has taken this the hardest is the copy editor who made the typo. He takes his responsibility, and his role in preserving reader trust, seriously, as we all do. And this is a mistake any of us could have made.

* The difference a letter makes || The official correction

* Earlier: F-word shows up in Greenville News sports story

[There are dozens of comments about this on my Facebook wall. Friend me if you want to read them and join the discussion.]



  1. What makes the error more interesting is that most of the medical sites I saw refers to is as a “disc” anyway.

    These editors aren’t always the best source for dealing with specialized topics. More then once as a reporter, I had to deal with an editor who lacked enough knowledge of medical information.

  2. AP style, and the two American dictionaries I’ve checked, say “disk” with a k is correct in medical usage.

  3. Bill Reader said:

    Talk about a lesson about the downside of style over substance … .

  4. Teej said:

    I remember a few years ago when ESPN’s Steve Levy made a similar faux pas on air when the TelePrompTer text of a pro football player with a neck injury contained an unfortunate typo. Levy read it as written, “he has a bulging d-ck in his neck.” Hilarity ensued.

  5. “More THEN once as a reporter”? George, a good editor could have kept you from making that mistake.

  6. Gladys said:

    I remember working in NYT’s classified death notices when a paid notice referred to the deceased woman as a “beloved cunt” when it should have said “beloved aunt” – not kidding. The official explanation was that the “a” in the print plate broke off partially which made it look like a c.

  7. Dave said:

    This is the kind of copy editing that has given copy editors a bad rap for many years. There are times when editors just need to apply common sense, take a hands-off approach and leave well-enough alone. Unfortunately, many have never learned this valuable lesson and continue to suffer from Tinker-itis.

  8. Dave, I agree. There are many people who wanted to tinker up until the last minute. Changing “disc” to “disk” is generally harmless, but why bother with that at the end?

  9. Dave said:

    Robert: Just read your comment above. You are 100 percent right. Have been saying this for years. Interesting how the Observer still has numerous eyes on the paper that late in the production process. Kudos to them for having the manpower. Most papers — think Greenville News — don’t even have a body to look over the final product for random f-bombs.