MALCOLM WOODS, Editor, Exchange Magazine:
"The very first news story I edited at Community Newspapers in
Milwaukee's 'burbs concerned a fundraising bowling marathon being
planned to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Assocaition.
I was horrified to see the headline on the Thursday paper: 'Bowel-a-thon
planned for MDA.'
I still have no idea how much shit they raised."
SANDOR M. POLSTER, "Retired news junkie
now living in Maine (news editor for the NBC Nightly News, 1986-93;
writer for the CBS Evening News, 1973-85; reporter for the NY Post,
1968-73; reporter with the AP, 1967)": "When I was in graduate school at
the University of Iowa in 1966, the Cedar Rapids Gazette had a first
edition, eight column headline: REDS BEAT OFF AT OUTPOST. Some editor,
apparently sensitive to hidden meanings, changed it in the next edition
to: BEAT OFF REDS AT OUTPOST."
"In the Edmonton Journal of June 20, 1978, a map appeared which
reversed the positions of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Journal is Alberta's largest newspaper."
TERRY P. GILLICK:
"The Milwaukee NBC-TV affiliate, WTMJ-4, had sent a reporter to cover a
plane mishap at Chicago's O'Hare Field. The reporter had done a
reasonably good job on what turned out to be one of those 'it could have
been a lot worse' stories. After chatting live and on-camera with the
airport manager, the reporter then addressed the co-anchors back at the
station. 'You know, Mike and Carol, I think it is important for us to
remind the viewers that air travel is still the safest way to fly.'"
LUCY DALGLISH, Executive Director, Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press: "I was a copy editor at the Dakota Student newspaper at the University of
North Dakota in the late 1970s. UND had an interesting occupational
therapy course for people who were going blind, and we decided to write
a feature story about it. The program was coordinated by a woman named
Cora Como. She worked one-on-one with people who were losing their
sight, and helped them learn to use a cane and perform other tasks that
sighted people take for granted. The feature story was mostly about
her, and our headline had a typo: 'Coma eases trauma for blind.'"
CHARLES GLASSER, First Amendment lawyer, Willkie Farr &
"In the late 70's, when the current pontiff was elected, the Scripps-Howard
p.m. daily, The Hollywood Sun-Tattler, intending to comment on the ascention
of the first polish Pope, instead offered the following hed to its readers:
'VATICAN ELECTS FIRST NON-CATHOLIC POPE.'"
"REQUESTS ANONYMITY": "Philadelphia Inquirer,
Friday, July 12, 1985 Page: C03
/CLEARING THE RECORD/
In the Inquirer's somewhat over-ambitious effort to celebrate 'Be Nice to
New Jersey Week' yesterday, the state was credited as being the birthplace
of a few too many famous Americans. While Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Edison,
Thomas Paine, Gen. George McClellan, Walt Whitman and Bob Guccione all made
their homes in New Jersey at one time - and the New Jersey Turnpike has even
named rest areas for Edison and Whitman - none had the good fortune to be
born there. And while New Jersey has had its share of mishaps, the state's
reputation cannot be tarnished by the sinking of the Lusitania. The ship
went down off the coast of Ireland."
BERNIE BECK, deputy copy desk chief, San Francisco Chronicle:
"My all-time favorite is from when I worked at the Los Angeles Daily
News in the late 1970s.
Our matronly society editor did her her own hedlines. On a column
about a debutantes' event, she wrote: 'Debs to Ball Under Tent.'"
MICHAEL A. HILTZIK, Los Angeles Times: "My favorite object lesson in what Liebling called 'the futility of
flapdoodle' dates from a misguided strategy we at the Buffalo (N.Y.)
Courier-Express undertook in the mid-1970's to win an antitrust suit we
filed against the Buffalo Evening News, which had just been bought by
Warren Buffett and announced plans to bring out a Sunday edition to compete
with ours (and, incidentally, give it away for free). To suck up to the
judge hearing the case, we ran a long feature about how this no-nonsense
jurist turned into a pushover when at home among his family. The headline:
'Judge Loses Firmness When he Doffs His Robe.'"
GREG WEATHERFORD, Editor, Inside Business: "A few years ago when I was managing editor at Style Weekly, a
well-regarded alternative weekly in Richmond, Va., we ran an advertorial
with menu listings from various local restaurants. Our listing for one
of the toniest restaurants in town included a particularly appetizing
dish: Roast Loin of Rabbi.
I'm told this made Jay Leno's newspaper bloopers segment, though I never
saw it myself. All I could think was, Thank God it was an advertising
STEVE MOHUNDRO, Copy editor, Amazon.com: "I worked on the student newspaper at Western Washington University, which
is a rather liberal school. One day (in 1995) we ran a photo of a bake
sale, put on by the Women's Resource Center, with all females in the frame
(buying and selling baked goods). It was a late night of production, and
the News editor finally wrote what he believed was an innocuous headline
for the standalone photo: 'Cupcakes for a Cause.' You know, I think we
ended up getting away with it."
LAWRENCE CHRISTON: "I'm a free-lance journalist at present, but I was a drama critic for the
now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and later a staffer for the Los
Angeles Times. In a Herald review of a play starring Douglas Fairbanks
Jr., I alluded to the European setting of 'town burghers.' Someone
changed the phrase to 'town burglars,' and that's the way it ran.
At the Times, in trying to specify a social milieu, I made reference
to the Harvard-educated poet e.e. cummings' line, "Cambridge ladies with
furnished souls." The daily arts editor, fearing that the allusion might
be too obscure for our dear readers, inserted the helpful note that
'Cambridge is a famous University in England.'"
"Once had a photocopy of this classic headline from a New England daily
regarding a big conglomerate's acquisition of the hometown American
Screw Co.: Textron Makes Offer to Screw Co. Stockholders."
STEVE MAMANELLA, Director of Communications, Archdiocese of St. Louis: "I have two favorite newspaper gaffes: The Pantagraph of
Bloomington, Ill., had a short story about a local abortion rights
event to be held by McLean County Voices for Choice. The
Pantagraph, however, referred to the group in the copy as McLean
County Vices for Choice. The National Catholic Register, which has
a regular grouping of stories under the category-headline 'World,'
wanted to lead a story about someone being excommunicated with the
simple headline 'Excommunicated.' Somehow the headline was put on
the same line as the section headline, making the section headline
say 'World Excommunicated.'"
STEVE GOSSET, CBS Radio: "Here's another doozy from the Syracuse Herald-Journal, where I worked
while going to graduate school. Each day they had a one-word headline
weather forecast. On this particular day, it read 'Spooky,' appropriate
the cloudy skies and since it was also around Halloween. Unfortunately,
the way the
column was laid out sometimes made the headline seem like a cutline.
above 'Spooky' was a picture of Jesse Jackson. The headline was
gone by the final
STEPHEN LAWTON, Editor-in-Chief,
MicroTimes: "One blooper in which I was an unwilling participant occurred when I
attended Los Angeles Valley College and worked on the award-winning
Valley Star student paper -- some time around 1974. I had
co-authored a story about a new mannequin that was acquired by the
Nursing Department -- it was designed to be either gender based on
the parts the student chose to use. Another reporter wrote a
piece about the cafeteria food. I can just image what the managing
editor thought after she wrote these heads and laid them out,
side-by-side, across the top of the back page: Students' Appetites
Satisfied [and] Bisexual Mannequin Comes To Valley. One must wonder
just what goes on at that school."
LESLIE WEST HOFFECKER,
Director of Communications, San Diego Dialogue:
"In the mid- to late 1970s at The Philadelphia Inquirer we utilized, for some
reason known only to The Powers That Be, the services of a freelance pop-music
critic (who shall remain nameless). His copy was so atrocious that we kept a
large file of his bloopers for our own amusement, no doubt taxing the resources
of the then-new computer system. Those of us on the Saturday night copy desk
who were responsible for shepherding his reviews often thought about letting
them run verbatim, but such factors as paying the mortgage got in the way of
that source of fun. My favorite was his description of musician Leo Kottke as
'the leading progenitor of the guitar.' (Ouch!)"
MATT MURRAY: "This correction comes from the Newport News Daily Press, my former
employer, and speaks for itself:
'An article in Saturday's Local section incorrectly reported that a suspect
identified as "Fnu Lnu" had been indicted by a federal grand jury. "Fnu Lnu"
is not a name. FNU is a law enforcement abbreviation for "first name
unknown," LNU for "last name unknown." Officials knew the suspect only by
the name 'Dezo.'"
TOM NORD, The Louisville Courier-Journal:
"I don't know if these qualify as bloopers, but they are pretty funny.
The first was printed years ago in my hometown newspaper, The New
Albany (Ind.) Tribune. The wife of the late Grady Nutt, a comedian
on 'Hee Haw,' was in town speaking to a church group. The headline
read 'Nutt's widow to speak.'
The other blooper was from my old paper, the Saginaw (Mich.) News.
Cops arrested a guy on drug charges after frisking him and finding
some coke in his BVDs. The headline read 'Crack found in underwear.'"
KATHY WOLFE: "I'm an intern this summer at The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and
about two weeks ago we ran a story about one of our local high schools'
baseball prowess, and the strip headline screamed: 'Trojans are tough on the
ERICKA PIZZILLO: "Here's my biggest blooper: I was writing a profile of a local
environmentalist who was moving out of state and interviewing a number of
people who worked with her on issues. I quoted another environmentalist as
saying 'She's kept her finger in the dike' on the growing development issues
around the local lake. The problem was I spelled the last word dyke. Color
Days went by without my noticing this until our librarian had the joy of
sharing this misspelling with me."
"Although I can't take credit for this one (and I wasn't even on staff when
this headline ran), for some reason it has stuck with me. The weekly
newspaper Business in Vancouver (in Vancouver, B.C., Canada) ran a story in
the early 1990s about a local woman entrepreneur who was having great
success with her new business. She sold washable, reusable maxi pads made of
all natural materials. This was at the height of the reduce-reuse-recycle
craze, so her business took off. Business in Vancouver ran the story with
this headline: 'From rags to riches.'"
CHASE CLEMENTS, The Kansas City Star: "In eleven years at The Cincinnati Enquirer I can think of one
side-splitting headline: Every year we'd do a 'Woman of the Year'
series, and everyday for a week or two they'd do a medium-length feature on
one of the women. Well, one year the woman's last name was named Head. The
main headline was pretty mundane but the jump headline inside always used
the woman's name and referred to a quote, so hers read:
'Head: You get more than you give.'
It didn't make it too far into the early run to know that it wasn't
going to last, but ... funny news travels fast in a newsroom."
BRUCE H. TURNER: "As a copy editor at the University of Alabama's Crimson-White, we were
charged with writing heds for the stories we edited. One of my
co-workers actually misspelled 'gaffe' in a headline. Naturally, it went
MAX BERLEY, Copy editor, The International Herald Tribune: "Sorry, I don't have all the details of this one fresh in mind, but when I
was a clerk at The New York Times in the mid-1980s, a copy editor on the
national desk put a particularly funny hed on a story about the Supreme
Court nominee Ginzburg having to pull out of the nomination process because
it was discovered that he had smoked marijuana:
'High Court Nominee
Admits He Smoked Marijuana.'
This was subbed in subsequent editions."
Sunday, June 18, 2000
BILL RICHMOND, Santa Fe, NM:
"In 1961, right out of college, I was hired as a general assignment reporter
for the Clovis (NM) News-Journal. At the time this was a small daily with
a full-time staff of only five, so everybody did a little bit of
a turn doing page makeup
A co-ed named Myrtice Conn of Clovis was Miss New Mexico that year. So
we naturally ran pix of her as often as possible. I guess I should
that her nickname was 'Sug' and she never used Myrtice.
One day we had a story that the local gas company, Southern Union Gas, was
for some reason or other (I forget now exactly why) giving refunds to its
customers. Yep, you are getting ahead of me
Right below a two-column 6-inch pix of 'Sug' Conn was a 36-point head
saying 'SUG CUSTOMERS TO GET REFUNDS.' She was not upset
in the least...in fact she got a kick out of it, but her Mother wasn't so
JOHN CORCORAN, Syndicated Columnist and former Air Force base newspaper editor: "As a base information officer I always proof read the entire base
paper. Not all items were about the Air Force personnel at the base. Some
military wives. Thus when the wife of the base commander finished first in
class at a base-sponsored sports car rally, that was news. However, I doubt
the lady -- as women were sometimes known in the pre-lib sixties -- would have
been pleased to read this:
'Meanwhile, in the women's division, Mrs. John M. Doe, wife of Base
Commander John M. Doe, was the event's top lay in her Triumph Spitfire.'"
DAVE BULLARD, Managing Editor
Fulton (NY) Daily News.com:
"When somebody was foolish enough to pay me to commit radio
journalism, I mangled a live piece on the holdup of the downtown Syracuse
branch of Marine Midland bank. To wit (or nearly so): 'A man held up the
Marine Midland brank banch....bank branch...just moments ago. He (story copy
here). Police remain on the scene at the Marine Midland brank
banch....(emphatic; self-pissed) BANK BRANCH.....looking for clues. Live at
the Marine Midland brank banch....(long pause, defeated sigh) bank branch,
Dave Bullard, Newswatch 62 WHEN.' Says the anchor, live, 'Ha ha, Thanks, ha
ha, snicker, Dave, snort, more news coming up.' Cut to commercial."
BRIG C. McCOY: "I don't work there, but the Kansas City Star pulled a good one last
year; the details are from their own mea culpa in the 08 Aug 1999
issue: '....Some bloopers are especially appalling. The July 30 Preview section
included such a gaffe on Page 26. To illustrate a calendar item
about National Clown Week, an editor grabbed a clown photo out of a
file and didn't check the name.
The clown was John Wayne Gacy, a Chicago serial killer of children.
To say that readers knew better is an understatement.'
Even worse, the cutline read: 'It's a rule. You MUST celebrate
Clown Week, starting Sunday at the City Market.'"Check out the Kansas City Star's Gacy layout
Philadelphia City Paper:
"When I worked at the South Philadelphia Review, a community weekly,
a young co-worker renamed that famous building in the Vatican 'the
Sixteenth Chapel.' The editor berated him until he pointed out that
it had gotten past her. My favorite, however, came not from an
article, but an ad, from the local gas company. The ad encouraged
people to call 911 immediately upon detecting the odor of gas: 'You
can stop a gas leak with your finger.'"
"Sunday Punch" columnist,
Daytona Beach News-Journal:
"Since 1976, I have been the keeper of the Blooper Bible for the Daytona
Beach News-Journal... In 1986, we headlined a story about a routine
zoning board meeting: 'Five Inch Protrusion Ruled Not Enough For
But my favorite was one of our ads, printed Dec. 2, 1982 for a local
drugstore chain... It offered:
'Kotex Security Tampons
Regular or sugar
KEN DENNEY, former Assistant Metro
Editor, Augusta Chronicle:
"It may be apocryphal at some newspapers, but I know for a fact that the
newspaper in Augusta, Ga., once ran a headline about the current heir to the
British throne introducing him as the 'Prince of Whales,' a promotion that
might please the ecology-minded Charles. Then there was the cutline under a
picture of Barbra Streisand the night she won two Golden Globe awards. The
picture showed her posed with one award in each hand, holding them chest
high. Of course the cutline read 'Twin Globes.'"
"Local weekend newscast about ten years ago. They end the broadcast
with a typical 'ain't life wacky?' sort of news item using footage off
the service, in this case a beachside 'Miss Nude America' competition.
The engineer, naturally, obscured the naughty bits of the winner as
she strolled proudly up and down the runway...but neglected to do
anything about the hundreds of nudists in the audience behind her.
The expression of the anchorman afterward was good enough that it
belongs on a collector's plate."
RICH SASKAL, Reporter, Riverside (Ca.) Press-Enterprise:
"Last year my former employer, the San Mateo County
Times in the Bay Area, ran a standing Monday feature,
'Peninsula Faces of the Century,' to honor important
figures in the history of the county.
It always ran with a teaser box that included a photo
of the honoree, with the story getting a big spread
inside that included a huge photo.
One week, the paper honored entertainer Merv Griffin,
a San Mateo native.
As it happens, there is a San Mateo County Supervisor
named Mary Griffin.
Who had a file photo in our system.
Which was probably slugged mgriffin.
Do I need to go on?
Yes, the big feature on Merv Griffin ran with Mary
Griffin's photo in our A.M. edition. Both on the
teaser and the story. It was, of course, replaced for
our p.m. editions.
I heard Mary Griffin took it well. No word on Merv.
SHARON JILL BEAR BERGMAN, Online Content Editor, jobdirect.com: "In college (and it seems that a lot of these stories begin this way)
I was the music editor for a now defunct college rag in the Pioneer
Valley of Massachusetts, where I was responsible for writing most of
the CD and concert reviews. A photo to accompany a story about
then-breakout alterna-chick musician Ani DiFranco was supposed to
run with the caption 'Ani D. wows the crowd at John M. Greene.'
Unfortunately, when I left the article at the office to be set, I
attached a post-it to the photo for my pal the editor to read which
said 'Wicked hot guitar _and_ a hot little dyke - what more could
you want?' Somehow she missed the fact that there was already a
caption written in the correct spot, and ran my post-it note
instead. Luckily, the musician thought it was fine. Phew."
MARK RICHARDSON, Senior Assignment Editor, News 8 Austin: "Perhaps one of my most
embarrassing print mistakes happened some years ago when I was the Sunday
Edition Editor for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Our first edition was
late (as usual) and one of the printers pointed out that our 'People'
section on Page 2 was about five lines too long. It was an item about a
British Cabinet Minister caught in a sex scandal Rather than re-edit on the
computer, I quickly read it on the deck and marked a cut at what looked to
be a logical endpoint. My alarm clock went off on Monday moring with the DJ
hooting about the story in the Weekend paper in which 'British Defense
Minister Harrington admitted to having a lengthy homosexual.'"
DAVE BARTON: "I'm Dave Barton, a copy editor for L.A. Times' Orange County edition and
formerly the same at the late and occasionally lamented Herald-Examiner and
have seen a few classics in my time from both papers and the other daily to
which I subscribe, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. The best of those:
Some years back on Times religion page a hed saideth what seemed to be
front-page news: 'Disciples of Christ Choose New Leader.'
A banner in Her-Ex: U.S. Invades Pamana (of course an office wag
immediately posted on the bulletin board 'A Nam, a Plan, a Canal: Pamana').
A hed thankfully caught on Her-Ex op-ed page proof in optimistic
commentary about reforms in China: 'A Chink in the Great Wall.'
Caught at Her-Ex before it got in print in story about an accused
molester's trial: 'The defendant stood erect in the courtroom while denying
the charges...' (Exhibit 'A" your honor!)
Two true SGV Trib heds (from years ago): 'ucked to Death at 40,000
and, in about 84 point, 'Teamster Avdisor Mudered' (one word was spelled
SANDRA LEE, Australia: "It was the job of lowly cadet journalists at The Melbourne Herald
newspaper in Victoria, Australia, to compile the television details
for each P.M. edition. One cadet who was geographically challenged
was doing the mandatory phone check with one the programming clerks
at one of the main TV networks and instead of hearing National
Geographic: Mississippi River, Part One: he heard 'National
Geographic, Mrs Zippy's River, Part One.'"
ERIC DANTON: "When Dr. Ruth Westheimer canceled an appearance at the University of
Rochester in the 1980s, the college paper announced the news with the
headline, 'Dr. Ruth not coming.'"
CAROL CIOE KLYMAN, former journalist, current lawyer:
"Funny how so many of these bloopers involve religious events. When I was a
young reporter at the Providence Journal way back in the mid-70s, an editor
trying to drum beat the importance of verifying told an apocryphal tale of
a new reporter from the midwest, unfamiliar with Roman Catholic funerary
practices as well as the unique Rhode Island dialect, who referred in an
obit about a 'massive Christian burial' to be held for a deceased
individual. The reporter swore he had gotten that information from the
funeral director and didn't think it sounded strange."
JOHN HOLLENHORST, KSL-TV,
Salt Lake City:
"This isn't a blooper I had anything to do with, but it's an old
journalism legend in Minnesota where I grew up. I think it actually
happened, although I have never seen the headline in question, and can't
recall which paper it supposedly ran in.
The story involved an automobile accident in rural Minnesota, where
there happen to be two towns named Fertile, MN and Climax, MN.
'FERTILE COUPLE DIES NEAR CLIMAX.'
I hope someone can verify the authenticity of this wonderful legend.
My other favorite head was reprinted in Columbia Journalism Review
many years ago. It seems to me it ran originally in a paper in Richmond, VA,
it involved a shooting at an extravagantly named trailer park:
'MAN SHOT IN CAVALIER MANOR.'"
JAMES TARANTO, The Wall Street Journal:
"Proof that plain English is preferable to psychobabble: When I was working
on my college paper, the Cal State Northridge Daily Sundial, a fellow
reporter ran a classified ad in the paper soliciting anonymous sources for
an article she was writing. It began: 'Anyone wishing to share a date rape
experience on a confidential basis, please call . . .'"
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