One of the downsides of working for a newspaper is that you occasionally get things wrong in a very public way. It’s the nature of the beast.
And so it was with the Daily Mail – usually a paper of such high editorial standards – which was forced the other week to print a lengthy apology acknowledging a double-page spread about 300,000 illegal immigrants living in a suburb in France was littered with errors, including both the number of illegal immigrants and the name of the suburb (two rather key details you’d think).
Of course, the Mail isn’t the first to make a cock-up and have to own up, and it won’t be the last. It’s been happening for years.
One of the most memorable errors and subsequent apology’s appeared in a newspaper in the US which featured, in its ads section, a photograph of a smiling man accompanied by the words: “Congratulations George Brownridge for pleasing 15 women for an entire day. We were all exhausted and very satisfied and we look forward to next year.”
The next day the same picture appeared, with the rather contrite caption. “Our sincere apology to George Brownridge. Our intentions were to thank him for a generous shopping trip which he arranged. Any inappropriate innuendoes were unintentional and we take full responsibility for the ad that appeared in yesterday’s paper.”
Quite how the initial advert didn’t raise any concerns before being in the paper remains a mystery.
The Morning Sentinel once excelled itself with this beauty. “Due to a typing error, Saturday’s story on local artist Jon Henninger mistakenly reported that Henninger’s band mate Eric Lyday was on drugs. The story should have read that Lyday was on drums. The Sentinel regrets the error.”
This next apology, almost too good to be true, appeared in Scottish local paper the Cumbernauld News, after it stated in an article that “Caitlin Henderson and her friend Calum Robinson were the envy of their classmates when they arrived for their school prom at Condorrat Primary School”.
The next week the paper printed an apology. “Mrs Alison Masterson contacted us to say that daughter was not ‘envious’. We are happy to set the record straight and apologise for any embarrassment.”
Thank goodness that’s been cleared up.
One of the main problems for journalists is making out what their interviewee has actually said.
The Morning Bulletin, for instance, had to print this after a reporter got, just ever so slightly, the wrong end of the stick. “There was an error in a story titled ‘Pigs float down the Dawson’ on Page 11 of yesterday’s paper. The story said ‘more than 30,000 pigs were floating down the Dawson River’, What pig owner Sid Everingham actually said was ’30 sows and pigs’, not ’30,000’. We would like to apologise for this error.”
Then there are the moments when the writer just completely gets it wrong, but in a hilarious way.
Take the Huffington Post, responsible for this beauty: “This story originally said Andrew Marr asked Jeremy Corbyn about a capella group The Flying Pickets. He actually asked about flying pickets, people who travel to attend pickets during strikes. In our defence, both are associated with the 1980s.” So close…
Here’s an old favourite from The Guardian that never gets any less amusing: “In our interview with Sir Jack Hayward, the chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers, we mistakenly attributed to him the following comment, ‘Our team was the worst in the First Division and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the Premier League’.
Sir Jack had just declined the offer of a hot drink. What he actually said was, ‘Our tea was the worst in the First Division and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the Premier League.’ Profuse apologies.”
And let’s finish with the Financial Times: “This article has been amended since publication. Prime Minister Morarji Desai drank his own urine and not cow urine”… which makes me want to read the rest of the story.
That’s all for now – if any of the above is incorrect, I look forward to printing an apology about it in next week’s column.
How not to treat a new laptop...
I have had a very stressful week, mainly due to the fact that my two-year-old daughter Mary threw a glass of water over my laptop.
The laptop screen promptly went black and refused to switch back on, despite my repeated and increasingly frantic attempts to resuscitate it.
Mary didn’t help the situation, pointing at it and saying ‘screen gone off’.
I reacted with slight horror and panic to this turn of events because I had been given the laptop three days earlier by my work.
It’s part of a new policy to allow us to ‘work on the go’, which roughly translated means ‘so we can get you to work 24 hours a day if we wish’.
The laptops are new, top of the range, and cost an absolute fortune, yet I had managed to break mine before the end of the first week.
I endured a sleepless night before sheepishly approaching our IT department the following day with the words, ‘Erm, I’m jolly sorry about this but you know that very expensive laptop you gave me on Monday with the words ‘take care of this, it’s an expensive piece of kit’? Well, I’ve broken it’.
Fortunately they were very nice about it, I didn’t get sacked, and have been given a temporary replacement while they endeavour to try to get mine working again.
Mary, meanwhile, is now banned from coming within eight feet of me while I’m working.