My favorite newspaper correction website, Regret the Error, has a lovely little piece this week on a lengthy correction in the Irish Times, lamenting that the letter L, "that slenderest and most treacherous of letter types," has somehow slipped from a key phrase, making the author appear to say that something was a matter of "pubic faith."
"This is a risk that serious newspapers, in which the word “public” will always feature prominently, run every day," the Times writes. "It wouldn’t be as big a problem if, for example, it was the ‘b’ that kept dropping out. But then we or the spellchecker would notice that. Whereas the lower-case “l” has a Judas-like ability to slip away unnoticed, with embarrassing results."
This happened to me once, as I have probably typed here somewhere before, when I wrote about a "poorly attended public hearing" in Greene County, Virginia. At least that's what I MEANT to type, except for that damned L.
The error slipped passed me, my editor, my publisher, and several other people who read the page as I was laying it out. It was only revealed the next day, when a local attorney called my editor and noted that "Had I known it was going to be a pubic hearing, I might have attended."
That is only slightly more embarrassing than the ad we ran in the same paper a year earlier in the annual Christmas special edition which wished us all "Peach on Earth."