Steve’s Hall of Shame:* McGovernors mixed up

On June 28, 2016, the Fredericksburg Free Lance–Star splashed this headline across the front page. As the story and the photo caption make clear, it was Virginia’s previous governor, McDonnell, not the current governor, McAuliffe, who was convicted of receiving bribes.

Don’t let this happen to you: On the next day, at the top of the front page, the newspaper printed “a sincere apology.” It blamed the “massive and embarrassing error” on “several factors”: “new software” and design changes. It said it was hiring more editors and starting a “new process for proofing.” I don’t buy any of that except maybe that the paper needed a new process. If no editor was responsible for making sure that the top headline on the front page was true and correct, that certainly needed to change. New software and design changes should not hinder an editor from doing that. However, the paper didn’t need an editor to spot the error. At work, I showed the front page of the newspaper, and a co-worker immediately noticed that the wrong governor was named in the headline. Governor McDonnell’s conviction for receiving bribes has been a major story in Virginia for a while now, and it didn’t take an editor to know that. At an editorial level, the error could have been prevented by following one of the steps on my copyediting and proofreading checklist: check repeated information. Do the caption, story, and headline all say the same thing? No, they don’t …


* “Steve’s Hall of Shame” is what one writer called my collection of bloopers. I decided to keep the name.

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One thought on “Steve’s Hall of Shame:* McGovernors mixed up

  1. Pingback: Steve’s Hall of Shame:* Headling doesn’t go herery | Editor's Companion

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