This headline is correct
So, I’m in the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Denver Saturday morning when I check my messages on my cell phone.
“What’s up with the ‘Dewey beats Truman’ headline in today’s paper,” Huskies soccer coach David Cope asked on the message.
I was taking a few days off because my mom was in town. That she chose the weekend that San Francisco Giants were playing the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field was purely coincidental.
And if you believe that ” Mom spends most of the baseball season yelling at the Giants on television or in person ” you also probably think that the Vail Daily meant to run the headline “Battle Mountain loses to Golden at VMS” in Saturday’s paper before the actual game was played that day.
The technical industry term for what happened on the front page of the Vail Daily’s sports section is not printable in newsprint. Though we’d like to think so, we’re not omnipotent here in the Vail Daily building. Inclusive in our lack of powers is the ability to forecast the results of events before they happen, even though we try.
Just look at last fall’s Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain football game before which I said the Huskies were going to win, 35-27. I got the 35 part right ” Devils 35, Huskies 16.
Did Battle Mountain lose to Golden, 5-0, because of the headline?
No. Games are decided on the pitch and the Demons were the better team.
Did the Vail Daily step in it big-time by running the headline?
Absolutely. That was a gruesome mistake on our part and we’re sorry that it took away any of the experience and luster of a magnificent season by the Huskies.
‘The only industry …’
Matt Fults, the managing editor of the Daily from 1997-1999, was fond of saying,
“Journalism is the only industry where your mistakes are repeated 15,000 times per day.”
That was painfully true on Saturday. It also illustrates the highs and lows that a newspaper as an organization can experience.
On Oct. 19, 1998, and Dec. 26, 2006, the dates of the Vail fires and the death of former President Gerald R. Ford, respectively, the staff of the Daily came together in a dynamic way to produce a spectacular product. It’s hard work, but it’s exhilarating for those who love the business. (I would say us, but I was out of the office on both those days. Whoops. I was working the day the Kobe Bryant story broke, so it’s not like I’m dodging this stuff.)
While you feel great about the issue you’ve just put out, the problem is that another edition is due in 24 hours. And mistakes will happen, and the feeling is just as low.
I wrote the preview of Saturday’s game on Thursday before heading out of town. Somewhere between then and when the copy desk put down the story in Quark, the program which helps us lay out the pages, the headline changed from “Huskies host …” to “Battle Mountain loses …”
I can write a headline, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will fit the space on the page with a story I write, not to mention photos and other stories in the same space. That’s where copy editors enter. The headline needed to be longer, and somewhere in translation, the headline’s meaning got mangled.
It is easy in retrospect to say, “Hey, read the story,” or “The cutline (photo caption) for the picture with the story was talking about the Huskies losing to Golden in 2005.” A copy editor’s job is anything but easy.
Our copy desk has to read every word on every page of the paper every day. They (Please note the lack of agreement here ” copy desk is singular and they is plural, a no-no.) have to proof copy, fix cutlines, rewrite headlines and design pages all on deadline on a daily basis.
It’s an absolutely thankless job ” they’re, er, their names are mashed into a small box on page A5. Whereas I, as a writer, get a byline, you only notice the copy editor when something like Saturday’s paper goes wrong. Being a copy editor is like being an offensive lineman on a football team. You only look at them when your quarterback gets blind-sided.
That having been said, our copy staff of Evan Gibbard, Jessica Slosberg, Kelly Miles, Joel Hunt and Matthew Seckinger are some of the best at what they do. It takes a special kind of person, not to mention a guru of Associated Press style, to focus on all the details of putting out a daily. About 99.9%, er, 99.9 percent (A.P. style says spell out percentage), the copy editors make us look a lot better than we are.
Dewey defeats Truman
Despite diligent efforts, misspelled words and bad headlines do end up in print. There’s a reason Jay Leno has his “Headlines” segment on “The Tonight Show” every Monday.
The Chicago Daily Tribune likely committed the biggest headline gaffe in journalism history by calling the 1948 presidential election a bit prematurely with “Dewey defeats Truman.” As it turned out, the buck continued to stop with President Harry Truman for another four years.
Though he gets more print in the sports section as a soccer coach, Cope is first and foremost a history teacher. He was doubtless using the “Dewey defeats Truman”-style headline in Saturday’s paper to motivate the Huskies for that day’s game.
Throughout the 10 years I worked with him, I’ve known Cope to spout sayings. My favorite Cope-ism is not “A hat trick at any level is a tremendous accomplishment,” despite the fact that I’ve beaten that one to death.
I like, “You validate their successes by documenting their failures,” as Cope has often said to me about reporting on high school athletics. We certainly documented our failure Saturday about 15,000 times.
Times like Saturday make us want to do our job right all the more in the future. So with that in mind, please look for the following headlines in the next week ” “Emily LyBarger not named 4A Slope Player of the Year” and “Coach Jen Davin powerless to motivate Huskies.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.
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