Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions:We’re not stupid but we make some dumb mistakes

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col ImpressionsUsually I like to write about the good things our paper does.
I like patting ourselves on the back when we win awards or when people praise our work.
But this is not one of those columns.
This is a piece about some of the dumb things that can happen when running a newspaper.
There is no such thing as a small mistake in my book. They are all major.
But some are more major than others. They are egregious errors that can set us up for ridicule.
I fondly called them “how-the-hell-did-that-happen?” mistakes.RICHARDSFB.PHOTO2.9-4Richards’ Patrick Doyle, top photo, and Kush Baxter, bottom photo, were inadvertently misidentified in last week’s sports section. We think we got it right this week! Photos by Jeff Vorva.RICHARDSFB.PHOTO3.9-4
We had a couple of doozies last week.
One came in a story that appeared in the Regional. In one of my stories for the news section, I talked about how during week 1, Shepard’s football team beat Niles North in the first paragraph.
Shepard lost the game.
How the hell did that happen?
Basically, over the weekend, I checked out the score via Googling Shepard and Niles North.
One of the first things to pop up was the Niles North Maxpreps website. It said that our heroes won 31-18. But Maxpreps is not one of my favorite websites and is very spotty. Still, you figure it would at least get the score right.
Since I don’t trust Maxpreps, I tried another source—the long established and credible Associated Press score list. There it was. Shepard beat Niles North 31-18.
So it wasn’t until after the paper went out that I realized that Shepard actually lost that game, 49-14.
I did plenty of cursing when I found that out.
I also found out that the Illinois High School Association – a fine organization when it comes to compiling football scores — claimed that Wilmington lost a football game in the first week of the season that it actually won.
So I was in good company.
But it didn’t make me feel any better.
That leads us to the second mistake, which appeared in the sports section.
A couple of my photos ran on page 3.
One was of Richards’ Kush Baxter returning a kickoff. The other was of his teammate, Patrick Doyle, running with the ball.
But the captions were switched Baxter was identified as Doyle and Doyle was identified as Baxter.
One player is white. The other is African-American. Their numbers were clearly shown in the photos.
What the hell happened?
The process from the actual shooting of the photos to the finished product is filled with traps, hiccups and burps involving people who were not at the game. On a minute-by-minute basis under deadline, things get changed for various reasons in order for everything to fit on a page. Once in a while, especially when two photos are similar, captions get inadvertently switched.
In a great majority of cases at newspapers, the photographer is helpless and has no say or input in the process.
Here, as Reporter editor, I have a chance to give the sports pages a quick look for something like that and I neglected to do that this time.
I can easily say “Well, it’s not my section so it’s not my responsibility” but since I was the only person in this process to be at the game, it’s my responsibility to take a peek to make sure that Baxter is Baxter and Doyle is Doyle.
We have some great people working here and we are human and will make some dumb mistakes. It’s a microcosm of the universe. But our mistakes are public and when we make them, some people lose a little faith in our credibility.
Making big boners like this is nothing new or not exclusive to Regional Publishing.
The Tribune had their “Dewey defeats Truman” moment of infamy.
I’ve seen some newspapers make such gargantuan gaffes that they had to burn valuable front page space trying to explain those foulups.
I call those “what-the-$&^#-happened?” mistakes.
And I hope and pray that I won’t ever have to write about one of those.