Brian Sandford: Wrong second syllable changed headline’s meaning
May 4, 2014
I had a blunder a couple of weeks ago and am not proud of it. I referred to the Baltic states as the Balkans in a headline, and I'm smart enough to know the difference and was too tired at the time to get it right. That's no excuse for the error.
The Baltic states once were in dispute between the Nazis and the Soviet Union, which means they were in a no-win situation. The Soviets, who aligned with our army, got to draw important lines on Europe's map and sent many people in the Baltic states — including those in columnist Ursula Carlson's native Latvia — to the frozen, hopeless expanses of Siberia.
Ursula has a perspective on the Soviet Union that most of us lack, and we're lucky to have her as a columnist.
I similarly was lucky to have my mother, and she was similarly annoyed at ignorance about her native Denmark. When I was growing up in rural Ohio, she hated telling people, "Oh, I am from Denmark" and being met with, "Oh, is that the capital of Sweden?" Denmark and Sweden are separate for far too many political reasons to list here.
I also observed how people on the Danish side of my family spoke distrustfully of Germans, and I didn't understand why. We encountered vacationing Germans often, and they were polite and easygoing. Needless to say, as I got older and learned about some of the horrors my grandfather observed in World War II, the picture became clear.
We're going to give Ursula extra space next Sunday to go into more detail about her experiences in Latvia. If you've suffered through living in an oppressed country, I'd like to hear from you for a future story. We'll write about the fall of the Berlin Wall later this year, as the 25th anniversary is coming up. Many former East Germans identify as having been oppressed, and they live on the side of the Iron Curtain that's still part of a long rebuilding process.
This past week, an employee in our Classifieds department beckoned me because a woman he was meeting with had a question for me. I assumed it would be about a coverage decision we'd made.
"When is the editor's column coming back?" she asked. I had the same reaction that I generally have when people mention the column. "Wait … you read that?" I asked.
If you're reading this, thanks for doing so. The reason it hasn't appeared in a couple of weeks is that our assistant editor earned a well-deserved promotion, and my role has changed temporarily as a result. If you've sent me an email, chances are you've heard back from me after midnight. That's our deadline, and after that, I'm freed up to reply to readers and write things such as this.
This column will resume its weekly status soon. I knew when I arrived in Nevada that I'd write to the readers pretty much every week, and I'd expected it to be a challenge. Instead, it's one of my favorite parts of the job — as is meeting with many of you in person. In fact, it's a privilege.
Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.