Copy editors reprimanded for ‘Obama was allegedly born in Hawaii’ line

Last week, the Helena (MT) Independent Record told readers that it disciplined the staffers responsible for adding “allegedly” to an AP story that noted “Obama was born in Hawaii.”

On Monday, I called publisher Randy Rickman (left) and asked what the punishment was.

“Why would I tell you that?” he said.

“Because I asked?” I replied.

“We’re not going to discuss that,” he told me, “but you’ll never see that happen in this newsroom again.”

How did “Obama was allegedly born in Hawaii” end up in the paper?

“One copy editor thought the other was going to catch it and he didn’t.” (They suddenly got busy, I’m told by someone else.)

— From the Independent Record

I talked to other people about the incident and learned this:

The copy editors are “basic liberal media types” who were lampooning their boss with the “allegedly” insertion.

Rickman is conservative and he wears that on his sleeve,” says former Independent Record city editor Pete Nowakowski. “I’m guessing it was an inside joke making fun of the perception of the paper and the publisher. …At night, there’s kind of a locker-room humor and people screwing around since there are no suits around. We would do Onion-style headlines and things like that. Unfortunately it backfired on them.”

Another source says the two copy editors received letters of reprimand and had to “promise to never put anything on a page that you don’t want the public to read.”

That person adds: “They were pretty embarrassed but are good solid guys with a bad sense of humor.”

* Earlier: Paper disciplines copy editors for “Obama was allegedly born in Hawaii” line (