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Howling errors and currency clangers

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A howling error appeared in a major publication yesterday. A complete clanger. An embarrassment to everyone involved. It was amateur hour. All day.

The mistake – mine – concerned a story about former Barclays man Bob Diamond, who stepped down as chairman of Atlas Mara (the shares have been stepping down for some time).

Near the end of the piece the lazy reporter noted that Diamond had just bought a Manhattan penthouse for $30 million. Which my clever internal calculator turned into £23 billion.

This error went through several pairs of eyes – four at least after mine. Today, as readers wrote in with glee to ask just what they had missed in the currency markets lately, those four looked at each other for who to blame before deciding: me.

Fair enough. I don’t know why we do currency translations so routinely anyway. Readers know what a dollar is and are equally aware that they don’t have 30 million of them. It’s a lot, is all that number is intended to signify.

My point is, if you’re going to do currency translations, get them right. There was general consternation here that this error made it in to the paper. A mini-inquest was held.

Judging by the press releases in my inbox, nothing like the same level of care goes into what the PR industry pumps out.

One reader asked: did you not give it a read through? There’s a lot in that.


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