Cocalico Corner. Dear Readers: It was a Miss-take. Really, it was!

By on September 30, 2015

I learned a long time ago that a newspaper is only as credible as the facts it prints.

That was drilled in me as a journalism student at American University where a misspelled name or misplaced comma in a news article for an editing class meant an automatic zero for the work. And, when you’re going to college on scholarship with a requisite G.P.A., you take class standards pretty seriously.

I also learned that in my days both as an intern for the Baltimore Sun and Copley News Service in Washington as well as in my early days as a reporter at the Reading Eagle.

My first city editor, a guy named Charlie Wilson who’d started in the news business in the 1920s, could quickly see when we young whippersnappers treated assignments like obits, weddings, new arrivals, and campus notes cavalierly.

“Junior,” he’d say (we were all “Junior” to him), “make sure you get that right and spell those names correctly. People cut those things out and save them.”

How right he was. Decades later, cleaning out the homes of parents and in-laws, faded newspaper clippings were among the treasured mementos.

Here, at the Review office on Monday, those lessons and Charlie’s words rang true once again.

Dave Plaksin, the dad of 2015 Cocalico High School homecoming queen Nina Rachel Plaksin called to request a reprint of the story and headline in which his daughter’s name was spelled wrong.

Indeed, throughout the article, the name Plaksin showed up as Plaskin and Plakson.

When editor Andy Fasnacht walked to my desk, newspaper in hand, with the message, I felt a bit like a Journalism 101 student. Good heavens, what a mistake this far into my career.

I researched the original information provided by the Cocalico School District. Indeed, the school had misspelled Nina’s last name —  twice. In the release, Nina’s surname was spelled Plaskin while her parents’ name was spelled Plakson.

It’s not unusual in this day and age for surnames of children and parents to differ for any number of reasons. The Cocalico School District is a stand-up organization and I did not question the information provided. However, in retrospect, clearly I should have.

And, so, in a busy week with a Cocalico section doubled in size with a school page and pages of Denver Fair results, the article centering on Nina as homecoming queen went forward and was published.

The conversation Monday with Nina’s dad Dave was a good one. He was most kind, but understandably asked for another article with the correct spelling of his family’s last name.

We’re happy to comply. (See related story.)

In our conversation, I noted that something similar happened to me as a high school senior. During a basketball championship game between Muhlenberg and Wyomissing high schools in February 1971, a Reading Eagle photographer snapped a picture of me celebrating. Only problem was he identified me as a cheerleader, a girl in my class.

Photos by Donna Reed A Reading Eagle photo features a happy student who is misidentified.

Photos by Donna Reed
A Reading Eagle photo features a happy student who is misidentified.

Since my family only got the morning paper back then (the Reading Times), I didn’t see the photo the day of publication, but I did get several phone calls from friends telling me about the error. (These days, it would have hit Facebook as soon as it was posted on the Web!) I thought it was sort of funny, but the cute cheerleader who saw her name under my photo wasn’t as amused.

The next day, the Eagle ran a correction sans photo.

The next day’s correction.

The next day’s correction.

The Eagle sports editors 44 years ago knew the importance of credibility.

So do we here at the Review in 2015.

To Nina and her dad, we express our regrets.

But I do want to suggest something to the family: Keep both articles safely tucked in Nina’s scrapbook. In few decades down the road, I guarantee it’ll spark some smiles and some great memories of her happy high school days.

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