Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Readers ask what '30' means; The Offlede answers


I have received a few e-mails from puzzled people wondering why I put the "!!!30!!!" at the end of the live blog at the MCO food court. I have the answer.

The exclamation points actually mean nothing. They're exclamation points. They never mean anything.

But the "30" actually does mean something. It's an old-fashion journalism tool to signal the end of a story. I thought it was especially appropriate to tell people the live blog was finally over because it dragged on forever.

This is one of the best corrections The New York Times has printed, and it explains a bit about "30." I love it when newspaper corrections are stories in and of themselves - and when they correct something as ridiculous as "Feb. 30."
Corrections: For the Record
Published: July 30, 2007
An article on Thursday about the arraignment of three men in the shooting of two New York police officers, one of whom died, misstated the schedule set by a judge for a trial in the case. The trial is expected to begin by February, not by “Feb. 30.” The error occurred when an editor saw the symbol “— 30 —” typed at the bottom of the reporter’s article and combined it with the last word, “February.” It is actually a notation that journalists have used through the years to denote the end of an article. Although many no longer use it or even know what it means, some journalists continue to debate its origin. A popular theory is that it was a sign-off code developed by telegraph operators. Another tale is that reporters began signing their articles with “30” to demand a living wage of $30 per week. Most dictionaries still include the symbol in the definition of thirty, noting that it means “conclusion” or “end of a news story.”

— 30 —

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