Behind The Scenes

"Let is snow!" (the headline screw-up edition)

Normally, getting mentions across the blogosphere would be a flattering thing -- recognition for your hard work and whatnot. But today, it was definitely a source of embarrassment.

In case you haven't seen or heard:

From Gawker: Let Is Snow! Greetings From Brattleboro, Vt.

And from Jim Romenesko: How the heck did this happen?

So, when I sat down to craft this blog, I kept running over the reasons in my mind (which I'll share in a moment) of how or why a mistake like this can and does happen. But everything just sounded like an excuse. And the truth is: There is no excuse.

Let me repeat that: There is no excuse.

This was an obvious and unfortunate mistake and there's no really good reason for it, apart from human error and rushing.

So, to answer Mr. Romenesko's question, here's how something like this happens:

-- The newsroom this week is moderately understaffed due to sickness, vacations and the holidays.

-- Due to the upcoming storm, we shifted the regular nightly deadline up two hours on Wednesday night (to ensure we'd be able to deliver the paper in the snow and keep our carriers safe). As an aside to this, I neglected to contact the night crew: I was doing extra work on the day shift and thought we'd still have more than enough time to complete the paper. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't done that.

-- After talking to the night editor about the error, I learned we had a few computer-related issues during the night shift, forcing the night crew to re-boot our production equipment a few times. In and of itself, this is a normal occurrence. However, in this case, it pushed her up against the night deadline, and a last minute re-write of what that original headline was (and I'm paraphrasing: from the more boring "area makes final prep for winter storm") to something more creative/interesting ("let it snow, let it snow, let it snow") ... well, it was a rush job and human error crept onto the page at the last moment when there was no more time for a final view of the page.

Again, none of this is an excuse. There is no excuse. But, I take a little comfort in the above-linked Romenesko post that shows human error is not Reformer-specific. When people are tasked with several stories or pages a day six days a week, usually rushing to get the work done, it's clear mistakes will be made. The challenge is making sure few, if any, make it on the air, in print, or online.

A big apology to the readers. As always, I'll use this opportunity as a learning experience, and since New Years Eve is right around the corner, it's the perfect opportunity for a resolution to eliminate typos (as best we can) from the Reformer moving forward. Especially in the main, front page headline!

Comments (14) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Congratulations on embarassing yourselves yet again. I stopped reading your liberal rag many months ago but couldn’t resist commenting when I saw this. Let me guess, this is Bush’s fault too right?

  2. This happens! The holiday evening is supposed to bring out the good emotions and feelings in everyone-including letting the little things go. This is a little thing!

  3. But you made the the same error three times in the same headline. You’re stupid. That’s the only true an plausible answer. None of the other stuff you mention explains anything. You are truly very stupid. Just say that.

  4. Tom, thanks for the explanation and good luck moving forward with this. I know what it’s like to be short-staffed. Sometimes that means getting all the small things write and one single but big thing wrong. Here’s to tomorrow’s edition.

  5. Mistakes happen, keep smiling and keep writing. We’re all human after all. Merry Christmas :)

  6. Oops! Gave us a good chuckle. And to George Raymond, you never made a mistake, right?

  7. Oh please let yourself off the hook. Typos happen. It shouldn’t be your ruin. Have a beautiful day!

  8. Lesson learned for all of us. We know what it is like to be under-staffed and not mentally “all there” during the holidays. Frame this baby and put it up in the newsroom for laughs and a reminder that stuff like this happens and life goes on.

    To “U.R. Dumm” and “George Raymond” … get a life?

  9. Don’t fret over it. Stuff happens. (But please do see if you can help block the tendency to add “going forward” or “moving forward” at the end of every sentence. It adds no meaning. No one thought you were going to eliminate errors from the past. That would be a useful contribution to reform, going forward.)

  10. I appreciate the explanation, and I had assumed something of the sort when I first saw the headline. My vote is with those who found this a sort of delightful error–a good chuckle, with no harm and no foul–and also a reminder of how hard it is to put out a good local paper in this era of budget and staffing constraints. When I think of the territory that the Reformer tries to cover, I think it does a laudatory job.

  11. How refreshing. Would that all of us, especially public figures like government officials and journalists, more readily admitted our human mistakes. Kudos to the Reformer for standing up.

  12. You could have just said you were using “let” in its rarer but valid noun sense of “obstacle”, as in “(the) let is snow.

  13. I’m sure you have enough people telling you this, but: early deadline is no excuse. This front page never should have gone out the front door.

    But more importantly, where are your pressmen in all this? Any self-respecting pressman I’ve ever known would have immediately stopped the presses and let someone know about this. This isn’t just a newsroom failure; it’s a pressroom failure as well.

  14. May I just point out that in linking to Jim Romenesko’s post you made a typo?
    “And from Jim Romenesko: How the heck did this happen.”

    Mr. Romenesko correctly uses a question mark at the end of his comment, which you, inexplicably, turned into a period. Oops.

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