I was struck by a CNN headline a few days ago that mentioned Obama's presidency and "a new area of responsibility". Obviously they meant "era", but "area" was in both the headline and the text of the article. It was corrected within a few hours, but left me wondering if the writer actually thought or meant "area" of if it was a typo.
I seriously doubt the writer meant "area". A "new era of responsibility" is certainly a phrase that's been going around recently, so "area" must be a typo. I tried a bunch of different misspellings in Word, but didn't get any that list "area" as a suggestion. One thing I typed, that I was unable to recreate, resulted in the sequence "a rea" or something similar being automatically changed to "area", so that's one possibility, but it rests on leaving the "n" off of "an", misspelling "era", and furthmore leaving out "new" and just talking about "an era of responsibility". That seems like too many steps to me.
Another possibility is that it was a phonological mishap because of the pronunciation similarities between "era" and "area". This happens to me all the time. My fingers often type what I hear in my head as opposed to what I'm actually thinking, so that while I would never mess up there/their/they're in a paper, I often do so in quick IM typing. I once answered "know" to a polar question.
Jerome Stueart interview (pt. 3)
10 months ago