Opinion: A writer’s worst nightmare

POSTED: 09/14/12 2:55 PM

Public speakers, public school, public education, public works, the (general) public …. There are many occasions to use the word public and there is one way to royally screw it up: by forgetting to type one of the six letters in this innocuous word. But it happens: not too long ago we saw it on the curriculum of a candidate for a reporter position. It is a writer’s worst nightmare, but it always possible to do worse than worst. This is what happened to the Red Lion Area School District in Pennsylvania – the banner in the picture needs hardly any further comment.

Clearly, Red Lion officials were advocating that they were a purveyor of public education, not “pubic education.” That was confirmed by Don Dimoff, the marketing and communications manager for the Red Lion School District in a conversation with Prep Rally on Thursday.

“To be honest with you, all that really happened was the sign company made a spelling error, and in the midst of putting it up for a football game some of the other people missed it,” Dimoff told Prep Rally. “As soon as we found out about it the damage had already been done. It was an honest mistake. It doesn’t reflect on the quality of our sponsors or our programs. It was just an honest mistake by a sign company.

“It’s been a rough few days. Unfortunately, these are the few things that get you on the map, we’re doing a lot of good things with our sponsorship program and now all anyone will remember is this. We’re creating partnerships not just with athletics, but also with the school district. There’s a lot of colleges where the college is the town and the town is the college. We’re trying to do that for our schools here in a similar way.”

While the mistake was clearly an honest one, the ramifications on Dimoff and the Red Lion area have been significant. As the marketing and communications manager noted himself, the mistake helped put Red Lion on the map — it’s in South-Central Pennsylvania, in case you were wondering — and drew all kinds of unwanted attention from outside the community to the school’s sponsorship efforts.

It also may have made Dimoff’s job much more difficult, as he works to ensure all that are currently part of the sponsorship program that many more checks will be put in place over all future promotional materials … especially stadium signs.

“Of all the missed letters, it had to be that one,” Dimoff told Prep Rally. “The poor sign company feels horrible because they missed it. The people who hung the sign feel horrible because they missed it. I feel horrible. I’ve been losing sleep and haven’t eaten in two days trying to deal with this.

“I can’t tell you how many people told me that they had to look at the sign several times to see the mistake. Dozens of people had to look at it three, four, five times. I’m sure that’s how it got overlooked. We’ll make sure we do a much better job in oversight and continue to do the good things that we’re trying to do in the district.”

Still, millions of people had never heard of the Red Lions School district in their lives, but one silly typo changed that forever.

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