There are two things that give a journalist great relief.
1.) Having an editor or proofreader catch a mistake in a story, headline or caption moments before the paper goes to press and realizing you’ve dodged an embarrassing bullet.
2.) Finding a mistake in another publication and laughing gleefully at how someone let such an obvious error get through.
There is also every print journalist’s worst nightmare, the thing that will wake you up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. That’s realizing you’ve made a mistake, large or small, and it is now being distributed to thousands of readers and all you can do is lay there sweating in your bed.
And now, with the Internet and all, that mistake can go wider than ever before.
Such was the case in the weekend edition of the East Oregonian, where we reported on the young amphibious — ahem, ambidextrous — pitcher recently called up by the Oakland Athletics.
Sure, we’re a little red in the face. It’s one thing to have a slip of the tongue, it’s another to put a mistake into print, and it’s still another to see that mistake splayed across the World Wide Web. And to think: Just a few weeks ago we were Internet heroes, showing the courage and temerity to publish a letter about farts. Now, we’re lowly Internet zeros, publishing unconsciously about frogs.
It’s certainly not the first time we’ve picked up an EO and seen a mistake, from the wrong use of a word to improper grammar to just a plain old typo. For regular readers of any newspaper — a community monthly where one person does all the work, or the Wall Street Journal where an entire department looks over every page targeting goofs — a printed mistake is not uncommon. That’s the nature of words and deadlines and the lack of a delete button once that mistake has been pressed in ink.
No excuses. We’ll own it. It was a dumb mistake and it got through, from our desk to the press to the web. Surely we’ll hear plenty about it in the coming week. Then it will die down, life will go on and we’ll give those proofs closer looks.
Nights waking up in a cold sweat? They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.