Tuesday, August 14, 2012

EXTRA: A “brain fart?” All too honest

I have to give the Chicago Tribune some credit. It’s not every newspaper that’s willing to admit to an error, then admit that the cause of the error was a “brain fart.”

But that’s what happened Tuesday when the alleged World’s Greatest Newspaper gave us an error that garnered national attention amongst baseball fans – the Baseball Think Factory website, among others, picked up on it.

IT WAS IN the “Almanac” feature the newspaper publishes every day; giving us a list of events that happened on that particular date in several past years.

For Monday, Aug. 13, they reminded us that New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle died on that date in 1995. And in a caption of an old file photograph of Mantle as a ballplayer (one whose talented ballclubs relegated many White Sox teams of that era to second place), they told us he was 93 at the time.

Actually, he was 63.

A finger hit the wrong key on the keyboard (“six” and “nine” aren’t that far apart, particularly if one can type at a quick pace). When copy-read, probably by someone who didn’t know enough baseball to realize the concept of Mantle surviving until age 93 was ludicrous, it was able to slip past and into the published paper.

EDITOR MARGARET HOLT, in an explanation published Tuesday in the newspaper, said that a copy editor provided a written explanation for the error that described it as a “brain fart.”

I’d like to mock the Tribune for such an error. Except that I have to confess to having made similar gaffes as a reporter-type person. In fact, one such gaffe I made about one month ago while writing for a different newspaper falls into the same category.

In that story, I quoted a public official very accurately. Yet for some reason, I typed into the story the name of a completely different public official, all throughout the story.

I didn’t think he was that other public official. It was just a gaffe – one that I didn’t catch until I bought the newspaper the next morning. It immediately jumped out at me on the printed page, and it is one that I still feel ridiculous about. I think I described it to my editor as a "brain cramp," but it was all too similar.

BY COMPARISON, A “6” being turned into a “9” is relatively miniscule.

And I have to admit the Tribune probably deserves some praise.

Because this kind of error would have been all-too-easy to cover up with one of those one-sentence corrections buried in a blurb on an inside page. The kind that most people wouldn’t have even noticed as they scanned through the newspaper, let alone while doing searches of the newspaper’s web site.


No comments: