How do conflicting stories end up in the newspaper?
Obviously, it's something we try to avoid at all costs. However, there are occasions where different shifts and/or editors are handling different sections of the paper. Obviously, in the perfect scenario, the night editor checks over pages prior to deadline, and many times these issues are avoided and never make it to press. There are, however, times when extenuating circumstances ruin the best laid plans. Take Hurricane Sandy, for example.
First, consider this letter to the editor:
I realize Monday was a challenging day with the storm coming, but I still must “raise an eyebrow” at the Reformer’s lack of overall editorial oversight. There was unfortunately contradictory information printed in Tuesday's paper. On Monday morning, I had informed your reporter that our Special Town Meeting needed to be postponed due to storm. I nevertheless found, on the front page of the Towns section, the erroneous information that the meeting was to be held on Oct. 30. On Page 14 of the same day's paper was the correct information that the meeting was being rescheduled to Thursday, Nov. 8, at 6 p.m. at the NewBrook Fire Station. Does no editor proofread the full paper to ensure that an article on one page doesn't contradict another and to determine which is correct?
This meeting has been called to decide an important issue for our town. It is crucial that town voters receive accurate and timely information about the meeting so that they will be able to listen, express their views, and vote. The meeting was postponed out of concern that some voters might have storm-related difficulties that would prevent them from attending. The meeting will be held on Thursday, Nov. 8, 6 p.m. at the NewBrook Fire Station. All are welcome to this public meeting, although only legal voters of the Town of Newfane can vote.
The letter writer is correct: Monday was a challenging day, and the newsroom tried to get as many pages done well in advance of deadline, so that the night shift could focus specifically on storm coverage. (Since the Reformer offices also were in the path of the storm, there was concern that a power outage could prevent the paper from being published altogether. Getting those pages done in advance ensured a we'd have something to provide readers in the morning (in a worst case scenario).
As the letter writer points out, a calendar listing on one of those early pages featured the vote; Later in the day, after we were aware of the cancellation, a reporter wrote a full story to alert residents of the re-scheduled vote, which was featured a page of storm-related coverage.
To be clear: mistakes like these are inexcusable, but there are reasons that they happen. As always, I use these types of errors as a learning tool to prevent similar mistakes in the future.