They put a spell on you

A simple misspelling by a political candidate is front-page news in The News & Observer today. It’s not the error itself that merited the attention, but the way Pat McCrory’s campaign handled it.

When the “governer” problem was pointed out to McCrory’s people, they blamed a computer hacker who had somehow altered the “banner” of the e-mail that included the mistake. Then the campaign backtracked and blamed the blunder on an overworked graphic designer. (Aren’t they all?)

It would, of course, have been better to admit the error from the start or to say nothing until the source of the error can be identified and confirmed. Humility is better than paranoia. My colleague Paul Jones, however, points out that such e-mail banners can be confusing to those who don’t understand how they work. An update to one, done from a remote server, can look like hocus-pocus, but it’s probably not “hacker magic.”

Although it’s an interesting combination of crisis communication and copy editing, the matter will likely be forgotten in a day or two. The Charlotte Observer treated it that way, including it in a textbox with this perfunctory story about McCrory’s bid. The textbox mentioned Under the Dome, calling it “a Raleigh-based blog.” Actually, Under the Dome is a blog and long-running column that is part of the Observer’s sister paper, The News & Observer of Raleigh.

Note to Charlotte: Now that both papers are owned by McClatchy, it’s OK to mention your “competitor” by name.

UPDATE: News & Observer columnist Rob Christensen writes about what the “governer” gaffe says about the McCrory campaign.