We all have stories about bad copy editing jobs. And then the phone calls that followed. A friend just mentioned how she wrote an article about a new Starbucks opening, but the copy desk cut the graph with the hours of the shop. She got plenty of calls. One time I wrote a story in advance of a public meeting on a controversial topic. The headline didn’t match the story. I got plenty of calls on that one.
I’m sure every journalist who saw the story about the f-word slipping into a Greenville News story had a chuckle, but we also probably cringed. We knew the phone calls that would be coming. And Jim Romenesko reports on his blog the newspaper received 18 phone calls as of about 12:30 p.m. eastern today. The editor, though, didn’t give a reason how the f-word slipped into the newspaper.
The story is prompting so many journalists to talk about our own copy editing experiences or things we’ve seen pop up in stories. And the accidental publication of “fuck” reminded a former colleague and dear friend to reminisce about one story I have told countless times.
Shortly before I started my first job out of college as a weekly newspaper editor, the sports editor and one of the copy editors had an argument about the wording of a piece. In this weekly newspaper chain of 10 newspapers, the sports editor oversaw all the stories for those 10 papers and there was a group of copy editors for all of the newspapers too. There’s a lot of copy to be done over the course of two days.
The sports editor and the copy editor were arguing over how to pluralize “hitting slump.” If you’ve ever worked for a nit picky editor (haven’t we all…and I at times can be one of them), you know how these arguments can go. And on a deadline day with a lot to be done, things can happen. What ended up in the newspaper? “Shitting lumps.”
It’s still one of my friend’s and my favorite stories. I’m sure you have a similar story about something that ended up in the newspaper (or online in today’s world) that shouldn’t have. Tell your story in the comments.