Capital Punishment

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What is the capital of Kentucky, Louisville or Lexington?

The answer is neither. And there are plenty of other states with capitals that are not in the best-known cities. Think of Carson City, or Montpelier, or Salem, or Jefferson City or Olympia.

I memorized all the capitals in school, and others here at Travel Weekly carry such information in their heads, too. We also have a newspaper's typical checks-and-balances system meant to catch errors made by authors or editors; several sets of eyes see everything we print.

Even that did not prevent us from incorrectly identifying Charleston as South Carolina's capital recently. The error brought several responses, some meant to gently tweak us and a couple that weren't so gentle.

I mention this because it is fascinating to see which of our stumbles generate a reader response and which seem to go unnoticed, or perhaps are simply forgiven.

Believe me, we have found -- and not printed -- some real lulus, and we have printed lulus, too, big ones that may or may not inspire calls or letters. Any newspaper reporter has two fears: One is being badly beaten by the competition and the other is seeing his or her bad mistake make it into print.

It starts in college: When I was at the University of Iowa, we "celebrated" the big ones with annual Bullitzer Prizes. I still recall two: There was the ad for Bremer's Shirts in which the "r" was left out of "shirts," and the news story in which Ursula Andress' name was spelled wrong. (You figure that one out.)

We've taken some prizes at Travel Weekly, too. One of Alan Fredericks' favorites was the headline for a hotel chain in which the word "hotel" was misspelled "hovel."

My favorite features the IQ-challenged reporter in the 1970s who selected for publication a story that described all the fine hotels in Beirut. Unfortunately, when he put that one on page, most of the hotels had big holes in them because a civil war was raging in Lebanon.

Before I wrap up, I must make clear that screwball things happen at all publications including the venerated New York Times.

Printing your work every day is hazardous, but those who choose a journalism career have a certain affinity for living on the edge. That includes plenty of us at Travel Weekly, and we will continue our fight against error, day after day, week after week.

Finally, for those who also know all the capitals but can't think of Kentucky's right now, the little-known city is Frankfort.

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