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Public Editor Sylvia Stead responds to readers and gives a behind-the-scenes look

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In this undated photo, Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees hits a home run. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
In this undated photo, Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees hits a home run. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The readers were right: Assange wasn't charged and Babe Ruth had his clothes on Add to ...

It is humbling to remember that as journalists, there are always readers who understand our subjects much better than we do. And we very much appreciate hearing from those clever readers when we make mistakes. The same is true for our use of language and punctuation. This week I received a note from a retired linguistics professor who noted errors which were caused by autocorrect and not caught by our editors.

A reference to Babe Ruth as “The Babe” became “The Bare” thanks to autocorrect. Similarly a headline in Monday’s Review section said: “Governor-General’s Awards go rock ‘n’ roll.” “The n should, of course, be preceded by an apostrophe, not an open quote, as it alludes to the missing letter a, just as the following mark is an apostrophe, alluding to the missing letter d,” the professor noted and one of our senior editors, also a linguistics graduate, concurred that it should have said rock ’n’ roll.

Our professor ends with saying, “In spite of such problems, I still prefer reading your paper to that of your competition.”

Another reader recently objected to what he called “our false reporting that Julian Assange is facing charges for sexual misconduct in Sweden. The European Arrest Warrant is for questioning only – please correct me citing a source if this is inaccurate.”

We have written that Mr. Assange is fighting attempts by Sweden to have him extradited to face sexual misconduct charges there. Also, we have said he was fighting extradition to Sweden on sexual misconduct charges.

Other media have said allegations and accusations. Reuters describes it “Mr. Assange’s flight to Britain after sexual misconduct allegations were made against him in Sweden.” The New York Times says this: (he) “went to court ... to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer accusations of sexual misconduct.”

I asked justice reporter Kirk Makin to clear this up for us. Is Assange facing charges or wanted for questioning only?

He threw the question to noted criminal lawyer Brian Greenspan, who said: “The confusion in terminology is a function of the differences between common law and inquisitorial (continental) systems. Assange was arrested on a warrant to attend for police questioning with respect to four charges (allegations) of sexual assault. He is not charged in the sense that we would understand it – no information or “charge sheet” is before a court awaiting his appearance. He first faces questioning and then the dossier is reviewed by an investigating magistrate who can direct further questioning of witnesses before a decision is made to proceed to trial.” Here’s the original Interpol press release.

So there you have it. Our reader was right and we have been wrong. Thanks to both of these readers for setting us straight. If you want to comment on this or anything else you have read, please do so below or send me an email at publiceditor@globeandmail.com

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Follow on Twitter: @SylviaStead

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