Monday, December 14, 2009

The student who helps edit the professional journalists

There's a student at George Washington University who is keeping the pros on their toes. Daniel Lippman fires off dozens of emails a day to all sorts of journalists pointing out mistakes in their typos, grammatical, and punctuation errors in their writing. And they're grateful.
The 19-year-old sophomore at George Washington University has become the Washington press corps’ independent fact checker, copy editor and link distributor extraordinaire. His e-mails almost always lead off with a soup├žon of praise, such as “In your excellent article today,” followed by a link to the story and polite notification of a mistake, anything from a broken hyperlink to a misspelled name. He offers the correction — “It’s ‘Haass,’ not ‘Haas,’” he wrote in regard to the president of the Council on Foreign Relations — and often a link as proof. He signs off coolly: “Best, Daniel.”

He has sent notes correcting typos in White House pool reports and notes praising reporters’ appearances on television. Those who e-mail him also open themselves up to grammatical corrections.

Lippman mops up after the Beltway’s hacks so consistently that it’s a wonder he hasn’t yet flunked out of college. Scarcely a wanton apostrophe or misspelled name will appear in a story without Lippman’s quickly issuing forth an e-mail. — Given that there are still just 24 hours in the day, one has to wonder if Lippman has found some rip in the time-space continuum.

“There isn’t really a week that goes by in which I don’t get an e-mail from him with a comment or suggestion on an article I’ve written,” says Huffington Post writer Sam Stein. “Next to my immediate family, I’d say he’s my most consistent follower.”

“He’s very quick and diligent about reading our material as soon as we post it,” says New York Times Chief Political Correspondent Adam Nagourney, who notes that Lippman has also become a good source for movie recommendations.

“If he sends me as many tips as he does, I can only imagine how busy he must be contacting his wide diaspora of other journalists,” adds The Atlantic’s James Fallows.
While this is a sweet story about one student's ability to help out the professionals, you have to wonder about what those professional editors who are supposed to provide such an extra layer of skills to professional journalists are doing to earn their salaries if some 19-year old kid keeps finding mistakes that they missed.

And if all these professional journalists are so happy to hear from a kid telling them about their typos, I'm sure that they're super glad to hear from bloggers who write about their mistakes in content. Right?