Conversation starter

Over a decade ago, I asked my readers to share their favorite news bloopers — on-air screw ups, double entendre headlines, etc. — and received contributions from James Taranto, Nikki Finke, Ken Layne, Eric Umansky, Jason Fry, and many others. I thought it would be fun to update that old list. Check out what was submitted in 2000 (note: it takes a few seconds for the “Wayback Machine” to jump to the page), and add your bloopers in the comments section.

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18 comments
  1. Working for an Oregon daily in the late 1980s in one of my first reporting jobs I misspelled the name of the winner of a spelling bee.

  2. At my old Mass. daily, we would receive stringer stories by fax and scan them into the system. The scanning system wasn’t perfect, so you had to read copy very very carefully to make sure no odd errors got through.

    The sports department was in a hurry one night to get one last story in, and only gave it a cursory read. Unfortunately, every time the word “arms” appeared, the system read it as something else.

    Readers the next day spit out their coffee as they read about how the football spiraled into a player’s “waiting anus.”

  3. The only time I actually heard somebody yell “stop the presses” was the night the food section arrived with this eight-column headline over a story about truffles: “What’s Black and Wrinkled and a Dollar a Mouthful?”

  4. tracy thompson said:

    In a news analysis piece on the first execution in Georgia in over 20 years, I wrote of the lengthy appeal process as “the finger in the dyke” of a backlog of other death penalty cases. This was before spell check, not that spell check would have caught it. An explosion of hilarity from the copy desk notified me that it was “dike” with an I, and spared me any reprisals from gay rights groups.

  5. In a story on the National Spelling Bee, the copy desk checked the spellings of the words from a list that ran on the wire. Unfortunately, there were two lists — one of the correct spellings of the words, and one of how the kids ended up spelling them in each round.
    You know the rest. We had FOUR misspelled spelling words in a 15-inch story.
    And oh yes: Another year I personally misspelled the name of the winner, in a headline.

  6. Will Swarts said:

    As a young reporter, I was thrilled to win an award from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association for a business story on the resale of vintage Levi’s to Japan. I was less thrilled when the plaque misspelled the name of the paper. Also, at a Washington daily a couple of years later, readers were surprised that a levy for the police department was approved, in 36 point type, as a “Pubic Safety Tax.” Several folks called in to ask if there were any inspection positions.

  7. Anonymous said:

    I wrote a story quoting a woman who made a huge deal about how her name was always misspelled and how I had better spell her name — Jamie — correctly. When I wrote the story on a super tight deadline, I had it in my head that her name was somehow spelled oddly. Yep. I spelled her name Jaime. She was furious and made sure I knew she thought I was the biggest idiot ever.

  8. Anonymous Source said:

    Probably 20 years ago, when I was a bureau reporter for a statewide daily (remember those?), a local weekly ran a picture of a boy’s basketball team. In the cutline, one of the players was identified as “some fucker.”

  9. Mark Paxton said:

    At Marshall University, the one thing every student knows was that the football team, coaches, and many community leaders died in a plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970. It’s marked every year with a big ceremony. So while I was working on the student newspaper, this was the 6-column, 72-point head as we neared the six-year anniversary: Fateful Day Remembered: Nov. 16, 1968.

  10. Steve Mullins said:

    Boy, Mark, do I remember that. I bet the head writer will never forget it! When I got to the newsroom, I think she was under a desk.

  11. Ken Peterson said:

    Two of my all-time favorites:
    From the Salinas Californian, in an editorial praising Anwar Sadat after he was assassinated–“Peacemaker dies; others should emulate him”
    And from the long-defunct Yuba City Daily Independent Herald, one-column, three-line Page One headline on a prostitute testifying against a defendant named Darryl Blue–“Whore fingers Blue”

  12. Laura Gordon said:

    I was fresh out of J-school and had just become the assistant features editor, responsible for editing and designing the weekly entertainment section. A veteran copy editor helped me out by rimming the movie section. For some reason he never did explain, he changed cutline for the kiddie film “All Dogs Go to Heaven,” to “All Pigs Go to Slaughter.”

  13. Steve Mullins said:

    Headline from years ago in a local paper in Southern West Virginia: “Man Shoots Self With Shitgun”

  14. I was finishing up a review of a new Apple laptop and, keenly aware that Mac users can be particularly attentive readers, double-checked all of its specifications. I even verified that I had the right fractions of an inch listed for this PowerBook’s measurements. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that I’d somehow deleted the “1” before one of those fractions, resulting in a story touting Apple’s 1/4-in.-thick laptop.

  15. Dixon Wragg said:

    The local school board, badly in need of a driver training teacher for their summer session, begged my retired uncle to do it. He said he would if they’d let him co-teach it with his brother Dick. It was agreed, and the newsletter that went out to board members, parents, etc. said, instead of “Jim Wragg will teach driver training with his brother Dick”, “Jim Wragg will teach driver training with his Dick”. Uncle Jim jokes that 400 women showed up for the class.

  16. Mark Paxton said:

    And here was this headline following the murder of a young mother in the small West Virginia community of Big Ugly: Big Ugly Woman Slain

  17. Janet Rae-Dupree said:

    And will ever forget this classic the day after a hurricane moved through a small North Carolina town:

    Bonnie Blows Clinton

    http://odd.phootoons.com/clinton.html

  18. Joanna Grammon said:

    The typesetter at a weekly where I worked in the late ’80s contributed this classified: “Wench for sale. Hardly used.” It was supposed to be a winch, of course. Not long before I returned as editor, a front page story quoted a business owner as saying she would “shit down” her store for the winter.