As one who has been responsible for his share of bone-headed mistakes in the newspaper, I get a kick out of seeing those made by others.
I’m not referring to erroneous reporting or the kind of mistakes that hurt or damage feelings or reputations. I’m thinking of the harmless typos and mishaps that are mostly embarrassing to those who make the errors.
Like the one last week, when the Enterprise-Journal published an Opinion page column by a former White House speech writer, attributing it, with byline and picture, to Greenwood Commonwealth editor and publisher Tim Kalich. On the same page was a column actually written by Tim, so I’m aware how easy it was for someone to put his picture on both.
When I saw it in the online edition, I couldn’t help but swap some email jokes with Kalich and Enterprise-Journal editor Jack Ryan, two of my favorite journalists.
Tim noted in one response, “Too bad the press association no longer has the SOB award. This might be a winner.”
SOB, as I recall, stood for “Standard Operational Blunder” and maybe something else if you’re in to double entendres.
The E-J won it at least once, and maybe twice, while I was editor.
It was when we published selected football scores above the masthead in the Sunday paper every fall.
We had a front page template set up where the teams and scores could be updated each week.
One Saturday night, after LSU had defeated Ole Miss, someone forgot to update the score and left a previous one, where Ole Miss won the game, in the paper.
At the time, I had a standing bet on each year’s game with ardent LSU fan Mike Bridwell, the Farm Bureau agent in Amite County.
My telephone woke me up early Sunday morning with an angry Mike on the line, accusing me of deliberately having the wrong score published.
It’s a lot funnier now than it was then.
Another memorable blunder I’ll never forget occurred before the SOB award, back when the late Oliver Emmerich was the editor and publisher and I was the managing editor.
The late Scott Furr sold farm implements at his place in south Pike County, near the state line.
He ran a standing advertisement in our paper and others featuring his picture. Above the picture a caption asked, “Who is Scott Furr?” Under the picture, the ad declared that he was the man who brought low implement prices to Southwest Mississippi.
Among other things Mr. Furr once decided to advertise was a stallion he had acquired. He didn’t necessarily want to sell the horse, but he did offer him “at stud” for $50. The ad, including a picture of the horse, appeared on the same page as Furr’s long-standing one advertising tractors and farm equipment.
As bad luck would have it, someone in our composing room switched the pictures one day, with Furr’s picture appearing on the “at stud” ad, and the horse’s picture on “who is Scott Furr” one.
We detected the error after a few hundred papers had been printed, and it was one of several times during my career that I yelled the classic command: “Stop the press!”
We corrected the error and tried to retrieve the bad copies that had already been given to carriers, but a few got out.
The next day, I saw Furr enter the building and reluctantly got up to apologize and try to make amends.
Turned out he wasn’t angry at all, didn’t threaten to sue or request free advertising.
He just wanted any copies we might still have on hand.