I asked colleagues at the World-Herald and elsewhere to share their stories, which they did quite eagerly. I sorted them by lessons learned. This was the forerunner to my workshops on accuracy for editors and reporters, for which the handouts are already online at No Train, No Gain (along with most of my other training handouts).
Anthony was kind enough to send me a pdf of the handout, which I have cut and pasted (with a little editing to fix mistakes that snuck past me then or to make it more appropriate for today). I promised confidentiality, so that I wouldn’t need to verify the third-person stories and so that people would feel free sharing the embarrassing first-person stories. A few people gave me permission to use their names in 2001. I have removed their names now, rather than track them down now and ask if it’s still OK to name them.
The stories and lessons are more print-centric than they would be if I were to collect stories today. But I think they still contain some valuable lessons for journalists:
Journalists make mistakes. Sometimes horrible mistakes. Our profession does not require that you be perfect, only that you strive for perfection and learn from the mistakes. I asked the World-Herald newsroom and an e-mail list of training editors about the worst mistakes they’ve made or heard about in the business. Confession (or tattling) must be good for the soul. I got more than 50 responses. Some are printed verbatim here, some edited. Some are newsroom legends that may have been embellished in the telling. Here are some mistakes you might learn from:
You’re not that funny
Don’t write anything you don’t want to see published. If you think you have a funny observation to share with your editor, walk over to her desk and tell her. Don’t put it in the copy. Here’s why:
The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s student paper, published a story accompanied by a pullout quote attributed to Sharon D. Yeagle, an administrator. The identification under the quote gave her title as “Director of Butt Licking.” Yeagle did not win her lawsuit. but fought it to the Virginia Supreme Court. The court held that the joking remark could not be taken as stating an actual fact.
Another wise guy, Nick DeLeonibus, a reporter for the Gallatin News Examiner in Tennessee, got cute in a 1997 story about high school soccer player Garrett “Bubba” Dixon, Jr. DeLeonibus and his editor played a dangerous running game in which the reporter would insert bogus quotes in stories to see if his editor would catch them. The editor did not catch one that, in the words ofthe Media Institute’s Web page, had the player’s coach accusing Dixon of “bestiality and unsanitary habits.” This newspaper also argued that the bogus quote could not be understood as a statement of fact, but a jury awarded Dixon and his coach a combined $1 million in damages. You can read more about these cases online at http://www.mediainst.org/ONLINEIFAM99/LPT_E.html
Another famous lawsuit resulted from this headline, on a story about a dentist charged with rape: “Dentist fills wrong cavity.”
A sports guy in Colorado Springs used to insert “funny” little references into stories, show them to colleagues, then remove them. Colorado Springs is the home of the Olympic Training Center, so international teams go through there. The Cuban boxing or wrestling team was to be in town. The sports copy editor inserted, “The Cubans look pretty tough, even if they are a bunch of greasy lettuce lickers.” He failed to remove it and it got in. The Gazette ran a front-page apology. The guy wasn’t fired.
A former World-Herald reporter once thought it would be funny to tag a joke sentence onto a version of a short item he was writing about a former astronaut who was speaking in Nebraska. He noted that the astronaut had brought back rock samples from the moon, which NASA auctioned off to help finance the space program. Ha-ha. Of course, this was solely intended to amuse a few co-workers, not to appear in print. Naturally, it did, prompting a lengthy correction that detailed just what happened to all those lunar samples. His editors were not amused at all.
It was the end of a long night in February 1991. President Bush (the first) came on TV announcing the end of the Gulf War. After some discussion about whether this would still be true in the morning, the editors decided to go for it. They pulled out the Second Coming-size type. “It’s Over,” the big headline read. That part was OK. This part wasn’t. As a joke, the wire editor, a pretty low-key guy who wasn’t known for this sort of thing, wrote up a fake wire dispatch, printed out a copy and left it on the editor’s desk before leaving for the night. Playing on Bush’s oft-mentioned dare to Saddam to cross the “line in the sand” that had started the war, he wrote: “WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush announced Wednesday night that the war is over. He said headline writers could quote him if they dared.” The editor found the printout the next morning, believed it to be true and used it in his Sunday column recounting the night’s events. The wire editor first learned about it Sunday morning, when he read the column in his newspaper at home. He drove to the editor’s home and offered to quit. Fortunately, the editor forgave him. A retraction ran the next day.
A reporter in New Jersey was trying to be cute in a wrestling story, and described one wrestler who “went down” on the other. The writer was sure it would be taken out of the story. It wasn’t. It became national news.
Check with the reporter
Editors enter treacherous territory when they start rewriting copy, especially when dealing with factual material:
The Des Moines Register’s farm editor turned in a story saying that for the first time in history, Iowa farmers would be planting more acres of soybeans than of corn. A city-bred editor found the story unclear, and in clarifying it, he rewrote the story to say Iowa farmers would be harvesting more soybeans than corn. It was the lead story, with a huge headline. Well, corn yields about 2-3 times as many bushels per acre as soybeans, so Iowa wasn’t going to be harvesting near as much soybeans, even though more acres were planted. The correction also led the paper, with a similarly big headline.
One of my stories at the World-Herald mentioned a prominent person who used to be a business leader. A copy editor reportedly asked another copy editor, “Isn’t Mr. X dead?” The other copy editor answered “I think so.” Without checking with me or checking our clips, the copy editor inserted “the late” in front of the man’s name. The man had Alzheimer’s but was not dead, as his son explained to me on the phone the next day.
Check even the facts that you know you know
I spent more than three years supervising the Washington bureau and political coverage for the Kansas City Star and Times, including Bob Dole’s 1988 run for president. Yet in a story in 1991 I got his title wrong. I can’t remember whether he was majority leader or minority leader at the time, but I called him the wrong one. I rigorously double-checked most of the facts in that story, but skimmed over that one, because of course I knew it.
A World-Herald reporter told me: “I have screwed up on Susie Buffett’s name TWICE! I did a story on who donated money for the campaign for OPS’s bond issue. The finance report listed Susan Buffett. I was relatively new to Omaha and only knew about Susie Buffett, the daughter who lives in Omaha. So I assumed it was her. But no, it was Susan Buffett, Warren’s wife (I should have picked up on that because the report listed a San Francisco address). The daughter called the next morning and chewed me out. (The only good thing that came out of it was that she left her cell phone number on my voice mail, so I kept it in my Rolodex for future reference.) A few months later, I wrote a story on the Central High School Hall of Fame. I don’t remember the particulars, but Susan Buffett, the wife was inducted. Somehow we assumed or thought it was the daughter. But it was the wife of Warren. Again, another correction. The lesson: Don’t assume anything in this business. These were two routine short stories. I should have paid more attention to the details. Now I have a sticky note on my computer with three red checkmarks. It reminds me to triple-check every fact in every story or brief I write.”
Another World-Herald reporter confessed: “A ‘friend’ of mine once wrote a roundup story about candidates who filed for a primary and carefully verified every name, catching numerous typos and wire service mistakes and generally feeling very smug about his attention to detail. But he stupidly gave the wrong date of the election in the lede, which the copy desk not only failed to catch but picked up for the headline.”
A reporter wrote a lengthy, well-written feature story about a woman waiting for a liver transplant. He interviewed her family about their feelings and the woman about how she has dealt with the disease over the years. The reporter was very proud of the story and when it came out the woman praised him up and down.There was only one mistake, she said. It was a kidney transplant, not liver.
A reporter in Wilmington, NC, got a tip that a major hotel chain was acquiring land and planned to build a new hotel in town. The reporter called a honcho at hotel chain’s HQ, said he’d heard they were planning a new hotel in Wilmington. The honcho said, well we hadn’t intended to announce it yet, but yeah, that’s the scoop. Wilmington newspaper had big front-page splash of major hotel project coming to town. Next day the front-page story was a correction: Someone from the hotel chain called to say that the new project was going to Wilmington, Delaware. Reporter hadn’t asked about that part, and honcho assumed he was talking to the right city. (The editor who told me this wasn’t from either Wilmington and confessed that he might have the Wilmingtons reversed, but it’s too good a story to omit just because I’m unsure of the facts. You, of course, should hold to higher standards of accuracy.)
It’s better to be right than first
An AP reporter in South Carolina ran out of the courthouse abruply as Susan Smith entered her plea on charges of killing her children. As soon as her lawyer said, “Your honor my client pleads guilty …” the reporter ran outside to call the bureau, which promptly issued a nationwide news alert that Smith pleaded guilty to killing her two children. Alas, the reporter didn’t hear the attorney say “… by reason of insanity.”
A reporter’s confession: “I hung a city coundlman out to dry because I considered him a pious, sanctimonious boob. He had filed a campaign disclosure report late, and I thought, aha, at last I have him! So I wrote like 30 inches on how this guy would have to pay a fine for filing his report late. But Ineglected to find out that he had actually postmarked the report a few days in advance of the deadline. His sin, if you can call it that, was venial at best: He had relied on the U.S. Postal Service to do its job. I had to write a correction because, as long as the postmark was good, he would not in fact have to pay a fine. Idid a story that was grossly overwritten, grossly overplayed (Page 1!) and grossly unfair. I don’t think the stupid paper I worked for at the time even bothered to read it. My editor was just deliriously happy to have something to put on Page 1. When I saw the councilman the next day, he totally disarmed me by confessing that he also had a couple of overdue library books. Would Icare to write about those too? The lesson Idrew was never get too cocksure of yourself and bring a sense of proportion to your job.”
Names and numbers are no small details
A reporter’s confession: “On a first-day trial story about a teen who brutally murdered another teen, I incorrectly called the victim’s father Mike, which was the first name of the suspect’s father. Getting names wrong is one of the cardinal sins of reporting, in my opinion. This specific time was especially bad because, one, I was writing on such a sensitive topic, and, two, I went back to interview him 2 days later for reaction following the trial, and though he was understanding, his wife wasn’t. She yelled at me, but forgave me.”
Another confession: “Within a month of working at my first job, I managed to say there was a $15 million judgment in a civil case involving a small-town strip mall suing Amoco. It ran banner across the front page with $15 million in the headline. Problem was that it was $12 million and I spelled an attorney’s name wrong in the story.”
And another: “There was the time about a decade ago (at another paper, of course) when I ran across a woman running for a neighborhood board. I had recognized the same woman’s name, down to the middle initial, in a drug case not long before and added that fact to the story. But that was the daughter of the woman running for the board; what’s more, the mother and daughter were known as ‘Sr.’ and ‘Jr.’ I had never heard before of women using that convention — and I’ve never heard of it since. But it produced plenty of horror. I’ve never forgotten it as I’ve done countless court and crime stories over the years. It’s why we need to identify people in those stories as fully as possible — age, address and full name, including Sr., Jr., etc.”
Still another: “I was busting out a big investigative series for the Savannah Morning News, in southeast Georgia, about seven years ago when I made the biggest mistake of my career. In the bankruptcy-fraud case involving former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, U.S. Congressman and political power-broker Bo Ginn … I wound up with more than a dozen scoops by following the money and pinning Ginn and his allies to the wall. … The hardest hitting story revealed that Ginn had close ties to many of the banks that had lent him the money and that only two of the 17 banks were making any efforts to recover their funds, from his $1.7 million estate. Banks just don’t walk away from money like this. I found out that four of the top lenders were banks that were led by Ginn’s political allies, which included his former campaign treasurer and manager, his son’s former campaign manager, and the Democratic Party head of his home county. I reported this in another breakout story, which ran all the way across the front-page. Unfortunately, the Savannah Morning News didn’t have much in the way of research assistance. There were no research librarians and no research computers. There also was no Internet. All of which contributed to my big screw-up. I didn’t realize that the head of the bank in Ginn’s sparsely populated home county and the head of its Democratic party were not the same person. I mean, what are the odds of such a thing in a county of 17,000 people? Actually, the implied connection was viable because they were a politically active father and son. So, I wasn’t far off on my supposition, but it didn’t matter because I screwed up by not considering the same name possibility. I didn’t execute. I did the hard part and screwed up on the small stuff. My gaffe gave the entire political crew the stick they needed to beat me down.It also ruined the series for award purposes, as far as I was concerned. All in all, it was still a really strong series, but it was never what it could have been and should have been.”
Look at the Page
A couple editors told of pages being published with holes still waiting for headlines.
A World-Herald confession: “Many years ago (long before pagination, obviously), I was the makeup editor one Sunday night during Husker football season, and the night editor was doing a massive makeover on an inside page that happened to be the continuation of a Husker story by Eric Olson. (And we all know how well read any Husker story is.) As things usually go during the final 30 minutes on a Sunday night in Sports, we were shoving in pages left and right. We made deadline, as I recall, and I went home thinking we produced another flawless product for our readers. There was just one problem that I found out from Eric the next day while playing golf with him. ‘My Husker story didn’t jump,’ I remember Eric telling me. I said, ‘Sure it did. I was makeup editor.’ He said, ‘No, I mean there was nothing on the jump page.’ Here’s what happened: The night editor forgot to dummy the jump, and the makeup editor in his haste to make deadline didn’t track the jump. I came in for my next shift that day and the phones were ringing off the proverbial hook. Moral of the story: Never, ever screw up a Husker football story.”
Check It Out
Yes, sometimes you get bogus tips, and usually the tip that sounds too good to be true isn’t really true. But check it out. It may … be.
A radio disc jockey called a wire service bureau about 8 p.m. from Western North Carolina with a tip: Bank of French Broad has been held up. Newsman said, “Yeah right,” and hangs up. A few hours later, the early editions of the Charlotte Observer come up and there is the story by a competing wire service. There is a French Broad River, and was a French Broad Bank.
A guy called a wire service office in Philly from around Scranton Pa in 1974 or 75. Said he just saw Patty Hearst at the convenience store. Wire service newsman said, “Yeah, right.” The whole country was looking for her and everyone thought she was on the West Coast. The guy called back a few days later and said he saw her swimming. “Yeah right.” Guy called several times and all he got was “Yeah, right.” When Patty Heart was captured, she revealed that she had spent time living near Scranton, Pa.
Cover Your Tail
If you think something isn’t newsworthy, mention it to an editor before you dismiss it. That way you can be saved from missing a big story, or have some company in your misery if the editor also blows the call.
A reporter’s confession: An arts reporter received a tip about vandalism of a couple sculptures in a public art project. The damage was minor and the reporter shrugged it off as exaggeration, “thinking it was pretty petty for them to be worrying about a small piece being chipped off a sculpture or a sculpture’s direction being altered. I knew that stuff had happened in other cities, and I thought it was naive for them to think it wouldn’t happen in Omaha. Plus, in my opinion,
the so-called ‘damage’ wasn’t what I considered vandalism. I was foolishly looking at the story from an ‘art news’ standpoint instead of a public interest standpoint. Sometimes, when a reporter is so engrossed in their beat, it can actually hurt instead of help them.” A television station led with the story and “I was irritated that it was my fault we didn’t have the story first, because I had dismissed both calls, thinking they were an over reaction to something that was
Another reporter “sat on a report that Mad Dads, after 14 years in Omaha, was moving its headquarters out of town in the coming year. We ran it a day later than when I first learned of their planned move, and though we still broke the news, my boss wasn’t happy with me. I, for some reason, didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the move – and that it was worthy of immediate attention (it was a page one story). If I had told my editor about it when I first got the news, we would have acted immediately. I guess the lessons I learned are to not rely on my own judgment and to always keep an eye and ear out for a
lead to a story. I’m glad we didn’t get beat, or I really would have heard it from my boss, and deservedly so.”
Another confession: “One time I was covering a high school football game. I got there late (of course) and for some reason I’d parked on the wrong side of the stadium. The game was starting so I didn’t have time to go through the front gate. So, I decided to climb the fence. And your nimble big and tall man did OK, until he jumped off, catching the rear of his pants on the top spike and ripping them up the butt. I cut myself up in a very, ahem, sensitive area of the posterior. Bleeding, I covered the first half with my cheeks flapping in the bitter cold fall wind. But wait, it gets better. At halftime, I asked the home team trainer, a buddy of mine, for a little help. Laughing, he sprayed disinfectant into the wound and gave me a bandage. While I’m leaning over the trainer’s table with my pants at my ankles, the entire cheerleading squad comes into the locker room before their halftime routine. And that’s the story of how I mooned the entire cheerleading squad. Sigh.”
Never trust spellcheck & doublecheck big type
One day on deadline a fire broke out in a condominium. A small-town newspaper’s reporter came back with the story of a family escaping the blaze. They slapped on a huge, front-page headline “Family Flees Condo” and rushed the paper to press. Unfortunately, the editor mistyped and the head read: “Family Flees Condom.” The editor called the family the next day to apologize. They said, no need. After such a disaster, they needed a good laugh. (No lawsuit!) The headline was sent into Playboy magazine by a staffer and the mistake was then reprinted for a national audience.
From an editor: “One of my young reporters used the word condom instead of condo in one of her stories when she first started. This is a good example of something that spell check won’t catch. But I did. And I have to admit that I giggled a bit, epecially because of its context in the story, which now I can’t recall.”
True story from about 5 years ago: “Small town paper in North Florida puts out a 100-year anniversary keepsake edition. The out-of-state ownerand his extended family come to town for several days to celebrate the anniversary. Coverage of the gala party and associated festivities takes up the entire front page. The lead photo is of the ownerof the chain and his family happily posing in a very festive mood. The headline above the photo: 100 years of pubic service!”
A reporter wrote a feature for the religion page on the swelling congregation of the local Mormon church. Unfortunately the headline came out “Support for Morons growing fast.” As luck would have the publisher was in the office that particular Saturday. It was the first time I actually heard … “stop the press.” I think about 5,000 copies made it into circulation.
Don’t trust your ears
A cocksure young reporter at the Providence Journal turned up his nose when he was told he’d have to take obits as part of his assignment in a bureau in the 70s. He’d been a prizewinner at his previous paper and thought obits were beneath him. Sure enough, his second obit was for an elderly Catholic for whom ther-e would be a Mass of Christian Burial. The kid wrote (and reportedly the paper printed) that there would be a “massive Christian burial.” The kid departed soon after.
That story prompted this one, told about a reporter at the old Oakland Trib, calling in a story about the arrest of so-called illegal aliens. He dictated to the ACE, yelling above the din:
“The INS had suspected the family’s presence …”
“The WHAT suspected?” responded the ACE.
“The INS!” the reported shouted back.
“What’s that??” came the response.
“You know, the INS. The INS — the federal government!”
The next day’s story read, “The Iron Ass (The Federal Government) had suspected the family’s presence …”
One World-Herald editor confessed: “I still cringe when I think back to the time decades ago when I heard an odd name for an event over the telephone and didn’t take the basic steps of asking the source to spell it out or send it to me in writing. So The World-Herald (a.k.a. me) wrote about a charity event called ‘Pencil Town.’ That was long before I developed a love for old movies and found out that Hollywood was also known as ‘Tinsel Town.’ The reaming out I received from my boss left me with inner scars I can still feel.”
Don’t trust your eyes
Perhaps 25 years ago, the Detroit News published a lA or local-front story on Siamese twin frogs that a kid found in his swimming pool, complete with photo of frogs in kid’s hand. Story included quotes from experts on how this was a one-in-a-million occurence, etc. But apparently the experts didn’t SEE the frogs, and all the reporting was done by phone, because the next day, another story appeared: One-in-a-million frogs were merely engaging in what the News called “an annual rite of spring.”
Recipe for Disaster
One of the classics took place in the 1970s. Around Christmas, the AP sent out a package of Christmas recipes (if you remember the big AP newsfeatures packages that used to mailed out you are really old). Included was a recipe for punch. As a garnish, the recipe said to add mistletoe leaves. Apparently, they are toxic and the AP had to file a bulletin kill on a recipe.
AP moved a recipe for a fruit salad that World-Herald editors picked up to use as a filler on a news page. The recipe made servings and called for 3 to 4 bananas. AP used its normal recipe style to write “3-4 bananas” in the list of ingredients. Some how the hyphen was dropped and the recipe was,published as “34 bananas.” A lot of readers called, mostly to laugh at our mistake. We use the word “to” instead of a hyphen in recipes. (“3 to 4 bananas”) to eliminate possible confusion.
From a World-Herald reporter: “I once got a call from a man in a nursing home who was disabled. His wife had come to visit him, and then when she went home, she went out onto the street to wait for a bus. While he was watching, a mugger came by, knocked her down and stole her purse, leaving her lying there on the ground. I talked with him, sympathized, etc., but it was late in the afternoon and I wanted to go home. I never did a story on it. It’s been probably 25 years, and I’ve regretted it ever since.”
Another confession: “When I was reporting in Florida, I blew an opportunity to get a man’s first-hand account of a multiple shooting because I was supposed to do a scene-setter from the hospital where all the vicitims were going. I figured we were getting plenty of the first-hand stuff elsewhere, but we weren’t. It haunts me to this day.”
Accurate, but …
A World-Herald reporter covered a $5 million fire at The Center shopping center, the biggest fire in Omaha’s history up to that time, and actually was the end of the Center as a functioning shopping center. “As I remember the questioning, I asked the fire chief, ‘How long will the center be closed?’ Chief: ‘I don’t really know.’ Me: ‘Well, will be be closed at least over the weekend.’ Chief: ‘Oh, yes.'” The reporter wrote that the center would be closed at least over the weekend. It was closed for nine months. “Technically I was accurate, but it’s like saying Warren Buffett has at least enough money to get through to his next payday.”
Jumping to conclusions
A reporter recalled covering an Arkansas state Republican convention. He “thought I had a scoop when the lone Republican member of the State Senate told me he was flying across the state the next week with an important announcement. The state chairman told me they would field a real candidate for the U.S. Senate the next week. Two and two equals four, so I went with a front page Sunday story on how this guy would be announcing during a fly-around on Tuesday. Well. The answer was five. He was flying around to announce he would head up the Nixon re-elect committee in the state. To make matters worse, I had a little sidebar that ran inside about the appearance of Maurice Stans who made a plea with Gov. Rockefeller for big cash contributions to the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) before new federal rules kicked in. Oh yeah, that was the cash to pay the burglars at the Watergate? I may have had worse days, but I can’t think of one.”
It takes a dirty mind to edit a clean newspaper
Another confession: “Pete Ward played third base for the White Sox. He was a player of all-star caliber, and his last name was recognized immediately by all baseball fans — even Yankee fans. Gary Peters was a pitcher for the White Sox. He, too, was an all-star. His last name, as well as the last name of Ward, was sufficient for headline purposes. Everything clicked for the White Sox in one particular game. Pete Ward blasted three home runs. Gary Peters pitched a complete-game victory. My headline, a 3-30 roman that counted perfectly and ran through three editions, proclaimed: “Three Blows by Ward Lift Peters.”
One World-Herald reporter wrote a story detailing the life of a city councilman. He interviewed an aunt and uncle, and didn’t know until after the story ran that the aunt, (who made rather disparaging remarks about the councilman’s mom and dad) gave him her sister’s name. The sister called and the reporter was embarrassed when he showed up on her doorstep and discovered that she indeed was not the aunt he had interviewed and quoted.
The World-Herald once ran an engagement announcement (they are submitted weeks or months in advance) on a girl who had been the victim of a fatal accident.
A Denver paper sent a reporter to Florida to cover the space-shuttle launch. The weather had delayed the launch a couple or several times, and he decided it would be delayed another day and went to the Epcot Center or something like that. That’s how he missed the Challenger explosion.
Evidently, in the old days, there was an AP term, “will override,” to tell editors that what had been written would be overridden by future updates. During an Indy 500 many, many years ago (it was the 1930s or something), AP or UPI sent over, “Will Override Winner” to tell editors the updates would contain the winner. But an editor in La Junta, Colo., thought it meant that a guy named Will Override had won and stuck that in the paper. In time, the town was good-natured about it and held a yearly Will Override Festival.
Another confession: “As a first-year reporter for a small daily, I made the courthouse rounds, gathered the info from wedding-license forms for On The Record, then in print somehow got the bridegroom married to his mother. Oedipal jokes were made, but I failed to see the humor. So did the family.”
A state government reporter was trying to get a scoop on a official, John, who reportedly was being named the state economic development director. He was hiding out, avoiding the press. The reporter recalls; “I was calling around to his friends, trying to get a line on his whereabouts, when he answered the phone at one of his friend’s offices. He identified himself by his last name. But I wasn’t paying attention; I asked for his friend instead and explained why I was calling. After a slight pause, John explained that his friend wasn’t there and I probably wouldn’t be able to find John anywhere. I didn’t realize what had happened until the next day; chuckling, John told me after the press conference announcing his appointment. ”
From a Florida newspaper: Our obit writer also compiles the births. So you can guess what happened: We had two birth announcements just a couple of weeks ago that said the baby DIED on such and such a day, instead of WAS BORN. Of course, when people saw it in the paper, they besieged the couple with phone calls of condolence. Luckily for us, we knew one of the couples and were able to apologize personally. It was a reminder that the stuff in the small type is often what people read and care about the most.
A World-Herald copy editor’s confession: “When the Iranian hostages were finally freed in 1980, we did a Sunday page 1-A story about a guy from Loup City, Neb., who was among them. I wrote the head, a 1-col, after having just previously worked a story about the Klu Klux Klan. My head said something about the Needham Klan celebrating in Loup City. The slot did not catch the misspelling of Klan, but the makeup editor did, only after it was pasted onto the page. It never made it into print. I kissed that makeup editor’s feet.”