Oops! F-word slips into Greenville News story

From today's Greenville News

The reporter who picked up the phone in the Greenville News newsroom this morning told me that executive editor John Pittman and managing editor Chris Weston were unavailable. “I think they’re tied up with this issue right now,” he said. I asked if the paper was getting complaints. “We’re getting a few and we’re apologizing to them.” (Thanks to Andy Paras for the image.) || IN THE JIMROMENESKO.COM COMMENTS: “One of the ways Gannett is saving a few million bucks is by creating regional centers for doing things once handled at individual newspapers. That error was made on the copy desk in Louisville, KY. It’s a great system, ain’t it?” || Don’t miss the bloopers submitted by readers in yesterday’s “Conversation Starter.”

Nancy Nall Derringer writes on my Facebook wall:

There was a legend in Fort Wayne, about a sports copy editor who knew the guillotine was coming down. As a parting gift, he sprinkled the agate pages with dozens of obscenities, all of which had to be hunted down with a magnifying glass on deadline.

Bill Oakes writes on my Facebook wall:

Anyone remember the “Shitloads of snow” in Crystal Lake, IL? Still my favorite.

I did a search and learned that shitload appeared in the Crystal Lake Morning Herald in 1984. The full caption read: “Arthur Loy, foreground, and his mother, Judy, used teamwork Sunday to clear their sidewalk of nearly seven inches of snow that fell Saturday evening. Though a sh–load of snow fell Saturday, snowplow crews had most major streets cleared by Sunday. Warmer temperatures should be accompanied by rain the next several days.”

More details are on the Straight Dope message board:

It was Jon Young [who was responsible for it]. He actually took me out one afternoon and showed me how to take community pictures. Really good, soft spoken guy.

One of the great things the CL Morning Herald did was shortly after the picture was published and the initial outcry led to Jon’s suspension, the Herald ran an entire page of letters to the editor saying how much they loved the photo and the cut line. It was pretty cool to see.

This turns up another memory that just came to me. The guys in the photo were Steve Metsch and another guy who worked at the Herald, who I believe left and took a job with Miller Brewing. Not only did Jon get busted for the cut line, but then the bosses found out that he actually just went home and snapped a picture of his friends shoveling snow. Double-whammy, as the kids say.



  1. John Stevenson said:

    I was in the newsroom at The Greenville News for more than a decade, until the Great Gannett Layoffs of June 2011. Oddly enough, that mistake was made by neither the AP nor The Greenville News. One of the ways Gannett is saving a few million bucks is by creating regional centers for doing things once handled at individual newspapers. That error was made on the copy desk in Louisville, KY. It’s a great system, ain’t it?

  2. Ah, the OIN (Obscenity in Newspaper) stories… ours (from BEFORE I worked at the paper, I will let you know) from the late Green Bay News-Chronicle, as retold in my book:

    A sportswriter had rewritten a press release about a meeting of the waterfowl preservation group Ducks Unlimited. While practicing on the new equipment, he typed in a paragraph as a joke for the editor who would read it.

    If you can find a News-Chronicle staffer, he or she can tell you the paragraph. Suffice to say it suggested the group’s only accomplishment had been “messing up the landscape” with “a lot of (adjective deleted) duck (leavings).”

    Instead of “delete,” he hit “send.”

    Brooker said he got a call from Wood the next morning, and the publisher ordered his editor to read the story. Aloud. “And all they’ve accomplished is to mess up the … oh, sweet mother of God!” Brooker said.

    “Exactly,” Wood replied.

    To this day, the issue remains the only one ever to sell completely out. By 9 a.m.

    The folks at Ducks Unlimited, bless them, were able to laugh. The writer got a week’s suspension (would have been longer, but he was needed), and the paper managed to make duck salad out of duck leavings.

    Lahey, never missing a trick, had his cartoon ready: a duck, in hipboots and a scowl, picketing the building which carried the motto: “The News-Chronicle: The Friend of the Duck.”

    Which the folks at Ducks Unlimited commissioned for table centerpieces at their next dinner.

  3. Bill Reader said:

    Now that George Carlin is a member of the dead-white-philosopher club, and what passes for pop culture today makes “rated R” seem quaint, maybe the newspaper industry should discourage the use of “fuck” in copy not because it offends the head-up-the-rectum cabal, but because it’s a weak word. “Tarnation!,” “diddle,” and “Go play in traffic” are vastly superior.

    I’d scold the writer for not thinking of a more poignant expression. At least one that isn’t so fucking ambiguous!

  4. The word was not included in AP’s transmission of the story.

    Paul Colford
    Director of AP Media Relations

  5. The people who are playing the facetious “I’m so offended!!111!!!” card miss the point entirely.

    The stories of profanities past are not nearly as entertaining as some might think. The one I recall is from the college paper, when someone (who should have known better) decided to use a quote verbatim from the police reports. It wasn’t too funny when people started complaining and there really was no argument for what had been done.

    But back to the point: Things like this can’t be brushed off by saying: “Well, people shouldn’t be upset.” Those types of non-solutions accomplish nothing.

  6. cyd said:

    in a state employee newsletter some time ago, the “l” was left out of public servants. Many calls and emails.

  7. Doug van Aman said:

    Back in the 70s at the Nevada Appeal, story appeared in which a pedophile was luring young children with colored rocks. The reporter, however, typo’d a “c” for the “r” and the copy editor didn’t catch it. Great hilarity the next day.

  8. Doug van Aman said:

    This, by the way, doesn’t look so much as a typo or mistake, as a bit of journalistic graffiti … by the wire editor or by the page editor.

  9. Eyeballs said:

    I used to tell people that “90 percent of my job was keeping the word ‘fuck’ out of the newspaper.”
    Now … well, now I don’t have a job and there are no newspapers.
    Oops, I meant *sigh*

    ps: I think i saw a lede recently that read “WTF?” Is that more akin to printing “F-bomb” or is it pretty much printing the word “fuck”?

    I Know! Let’s get the think team at Poynter on this! I want a 16-part memo by morning.

    I might write this lede, events permitting:

    WASHINGTON — Another one of GOP contender Herman Cain’s fuck buddies surfaced yesterday …

    and so it goes.

  10. Dr. Syn said:

    Paul, you win the comment of the day award. I know you probably didn’t mean it to be funny at all, but it struck me that way.

  11. Jennifer Greenhill-Taylor said:

    As newspapers continue to centralize their editing and copy editing functions, I would venture to guess that we may be seeing far more serious editing errors than a stray fuck intruding into the copy now and then. Ditching teams of seasoned copy editors to save a few pennies will come back and haunt the beancounters who think it was a good idea. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The copydesk didn’t just check punctuation and grammar. It contained people who had a deep knowledge of the community, who were trained to recognize matters of taste, who were often the poets of the newsroom, people who could distill the best of a story into a pithy headline. Removing copy editing from the community, and putting it into the hands of people who have never been near the community the paper serves, is only one of many foolish decisions made by the beancounters.

  12. Johnny said:

    This type of error has happened for years, not because of layoffs and consolidation. Sometimes copy editors try to be funny; others are just stupid.

  13. Mac said:

    Another great one from Athens was attributed to the late Lewis Grizzard who was a sports writer before he was a humorist. UGA had a player named Happy Dix. He was injured in practice so Grizzard’s headline read, “Dawgs to play with Dix out.”

  14. Wendy said:

    Yet another reason why a regional copy desk is a bad idea:

    One of my reporters submits a story citing “The Pueblo Chieftain” as the original source.

    Our out-of-state copy editor from a state with a large Native American population returns the story with a notation that the reporter must identify the chieftain and his pueblo with proper names.

    I volley back: Umm … “The Pueblo Chieftain” is a newspaper.

    We all had a pretty good laugh over it at the time. But it goes to show the danger of stories losing their local flavor, name quirks, spelling/pronunciation peculiarities and all.

    The out-of-state CEs were wonderful people but I learned quickly to game the system by submitting my stories when the in-state CE was on the desk.

  15. Nicolas said:

    Not to worry. I wouldn’t let my child near a newspaper, anyway, albeit for other reasons.

  16. Joel said:

    Back when we still ran our own presses, we got furious call from a local cafe owner over his help-wanted ad. We looked over the page paste-ups and couldn’t find the error. Eventually we discovered that a speck of dust had fallen on the press plate in exactly the perfect spot to turn “experienced cooks” into “experienced cocks.”