Last Saturday (7.08.10) the Independent printed – oh horror oh horror! – an error. Rather a funny error, though. For anyone who hasn’t had wanky balls on their lips today (sorry, that one nicked from The Twitchhiker), the clip claims that The Big Chill was formerly known as the Wanky Balls festival. Evidence in the final par below from the original spotter.
The misinformation was lifted from Wikipedia – which Kat also clipped and published on her blog post.
It’s a classic fact-check funny that has also garnered many a witty comment wherever it was blogged. Bitter Wallet‘s commentators, for example, started openly bragging about their Wiki fiddling:
I once changed Roy Keane’s middle name from Maurice to Sarah, and it remained thus for a fortnight. I also changed the bit about him “often seen walking his dog, Triggs” subtly to “wanking”.
For ages Emily Bronte’s Wikipedia page kept reverting to a version which claimed she was buried with her pet monkey, Dave.
Etc etc. Warning: Depart now if you just want to enjoy the funny and skip my imminent rant.
But there were also many calls of ‘lazy journalism’ as well as the usual journalist haters who tend to lurk in comment sections. And, to be honest, they sucked all the fun out of the Wanky Ballsup, causing me to be a ranting subbing funsucker in return.
Of course, they could well be RIGHT. Someone lifted it from the Wikipedia page after all.
As a sub-editor who was assigned to fact check every tiny detail for about 20 years, and who no longer does this for a living because of the advent of the lovely World Wide Web, I also call ‘lazy commenting’. I can think of plenty of excuses other than laziness for the appearance of Wanky Balls.
Anyone who follows newsprint’s woes will know that editorial staff have been slashed and those who remain are often swamped with the extra workload. Entire subs teams have been let go in some cases and national newspaper subbing outsourced to other countries.
Subs brain drain
Freelance rates for sub-editors have been static or falling for a few years, work has been drying up and good subs have been moving on so that they can pay their mortgage. Budget cuts = ever-shrinking subs desk = fewer (not less!) factcheckers.
In web-first environments, reporters may have to sub their own copy whereas traditionally the sub-editing team would have checked the facts. Proofing your own copy? Cue potential Wanky Ball errors.
Sub with a grudge
I remember a whole subbing team banding together after being sacked to code naughties into the captions.
As above but with a sense of humour.
This is so going to sound like an old fart but back in the day you had to learn your subbing chops through an accredited apprenticeship or training course. I can’t tell you the amount of subs I’ve met who say they’ve just shimmied over into subbing from writing. Hello? Media law? Understanding of a decent source? Not out of the realms of possibility that the chief shouted over to the rookie to ask if it he checked it and the rookie said yes to save embarrassment.
Same same but likely to nick willy-nilly wanky balls off the internet, especially from that nice, handy, informative Wikipedia site. Good subs should be trained to spot such plagiarism; see my next excuse.
With a grey head long stuck in print, he/she possibly has no idea that Wikipedia is a first port of call not a fact-checking end destination. It came up first in Google…
It looked suspect but just wasn’t worth holding up the presses for. Or more likely, the end sub saw it and thought there’s no way this got to me without being checked – it’s so OTT it must be true.
Of course, has anyone considered that it might actually be true, that Wanky Balls was an affectionate working title named by the wags behind it ? After all, many a silly or rude band name has been tried on for size by musicians before they picked the final winner.
So just to be sure I asked Kat Arney what her source was, and could it possibly be true on some level?
I personally know Pete Lawrence, the founder of the Big Chill, and many people who’ve been involved in the festival since the very beginning. So I can categorically tell you it’s incorrect.
So I checked. Happy now? Although perhaps we should phone the organisers to be 100% sure and get it direct from the horse’s mouth.
You’ll have to do it, though; there’s a huge spider that just legged it under my sofa (I’m serious), and imma gonna have to jump to safety.
Now BIG SPIDER – that is a proper excuse for Wanky Balls.