Wick Communications

Don’t be your own worst enemy

In Editing on 15 Jan 2015 at 2:53 pm


Did you see the retraction of the century the other day? It appeared in The News-Enterprise in Hardin County, Ky. And it still makes me cringe a week later.

The story was headlined, “Law enforcement to be honored for service” and was all about how officers consider theirs a noble profession. So far so good. The trouble came in the proofing process, when some chowderhead on the copy desk actually inserted the mistake you see in the photo above. Elizabethtown Police Chief Tracy Schiller’s actual quote was that policing provided “a unique opportunity to help people in the worst times in their lives.”

What happened at the News-Enterprise happened because a copy editor thought it would be funny to monkey with the police chief’s quote, figuring it would be a good laugh for the guy or gal who actually signed off on the pages. Only that editor didn’t do such a good job.

Look, this is real simple: Never type anything into your work computer that you don’t want your momma and them to read. And never, ever, put stuff on page proofs that are a joke. Things happen. Someone accidentally pushes a button and suddenly your little laugh is rolling out on the printer or broadcast on the Web. (And if you must print dummy text, use Lorem Ipsum, the nonsensical Latin that comes from a Cicero text no one remembers.) …

Two people were fired from the Kentucky newspaper and it lost credibility it spent years building. It also likely ruined relations with local cops. As Editor Ben Sheroen said in a subsequent apology, “It takes years to develop trust. It takes only seconds to destroy it.”

Please, I beg of you, don’t do something like this.


  1. We had lots of similar stupid mistakes at my old community college newspaper, which was pretty lousy on the editing side even by college newspaper standards. I remember one film review ended up in print with the headline: “Some f—ing headline here!”
    And I have worse stories …

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