David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, October 16, 1999

Taking your
own advice is
a good idea

Going into the 1988 World Series, veteran slugger Dave Parker lectured his young Oakland A's teammates on how to hit Orel Hershiser of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had been all but unbeatable that year with 23 wins, a Cy Young award and a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings.

It's easy, said Parker, if you lay off the sinkers in the dirt. He then came to bat against Hershiser in a key situation and proceeded to strike out chasing sinkers in the dirt. Naturally, Parker became the butt of jokes as proof of the old saying, "It's easier said than done."

Well, there's a new "do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do" Dave and it's me.

I attended a West Coast writing workshop this spring and became concerned that we news writers were straying too far from the basics in our quest to seek truth and report it.

I wrote it down on the flight back to Hawaii and sent it to Quill magazine, which ran my article in the October issue.

Like Dave Parker, I had great tips for my peers, accuracy being No. 1. I wrote, "Every fact that's wrong, every misspelling, every bit of botched grammar, every typo drives readers to ask, 'If they can't get that right, how can we believe anything they say?' "

And like Dave Parker, I whiffed at following my own advice. Ten minutes after the first copy of Quill landed in the first mailbox somewhere in Wisconsin, I got an e-mail informing me that I had misspelled the last name of composer Aaron Copland and the middle and last names of John Philip Sousa. Busted!

I won't cop to Copland. I looked it up and sent it in correct. What happened after that is for the folks at Quill to say. But Sousa was entirely on me.

It's not that I don't know how to spell Souza -- as long as it's Jimmy Souza or Bill Souza or any of the hundreds of other Hawaii residents of Portuguese ancestry by that name, few of whom spell it with a second "s."

Unfortunately, John Philip Sousa didn't happen to be a Portuguese immigrant to Hawaii.

I tried to weasel out of my stupidity by tearing apart the writing and editing process. I wrote most of it on my PalmPilot, which has no spell-checker. Quill never sent me promised page proofs so I could double-check the final story. The copy editors at Quill should have caught my error.

But everywhere I turned for cover, my own words hung me. Another bit of my advice in the article: "Don't depend on editors to catch all of your mistakes." And isn't it me who is always nagging writers that misspelled names are among the toughest mistakes for copy editors to catch?

It was nobody's fault but my own. I should have checked the article more carefully before I turned it in. I should have taken responsibility for getting page proofs. I should have minded my own business and let modern news writing find its course without advice from me.

My only comfort is that most people remember Dave Parker as a fine player who won a most valuable player award and two batting titles in his distinguished career.

I'll never post stats like Parker's, but maybe someday my article will be reprinted somewhere with the errors corrected and folks will see it was really a pretty good piece.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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