Giant Rocky Mountain News Typo Begs the Question: "Y"?

There's no problem with the headline "Air Passenger 'Beyond Control,' Court Records Say" on the version of a June 20 article that appears on the Rocky Mountain News' website. It's another matter in the print edition, though. That headline reads, "Air Passenger 'Beyond Control,' Court Records Sa," which is considerably more intriguing. According to an entry in the online Free Dictionary, there's no definition for "sa" as an English-language word, but it's used plenty as an acronym -- for "Salvation Army," "South Africa," "South America" and "seaman apprentice," which earns points for sounding slightly obscene. But arguably the most surprising "SA" is described as a "Nazi militia created by Hitler in 1921 that helped him to power but was eclipsed by the SS after 1943." Kinda puts a new spin on the subject, doesn't it?

Yeah, yeah, every news organization makes typographical errors. In fact, Westword had an egregious one on a slideshow that was hyped on the paper's home page for a couple of days beginning on June 16: "The Fluid Reunion -- The Not-So-Secret Tune-Up Show at the Larimer" appeared as "The Fluid Reunion -- The No-So-Secret Tune-up Show at the Larimer." But the size and prominence of the Rocky oops symbolizes something more than a mere oversight.

Over the past couple of years, the paper has reduced costs through a series of buyouts, as well as by attrition -- and those who remain in the fold are being asked to do more and more to fill the gaps with each passing day. The stress this places on employees increases the possibility of errors -- including large, embarrassing gaffes like the one mentioned above.

Is there a solution to this problem? Not in the foreseeable future. Maybe that particular letter was missing from the headline because journalists used up the entire supply trying to figure out how the print-journalism industry got into its current predicament. "Y?" they must be wondering. "For God's sake, Y?" -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts