3 Headlines That Haunted Their Copy Editors Forever




Translation: “First passenger train arrived and departed from Bodø today – a Negro was onboard”

Source: Aftenposten, February 2, 1962

Explanation: In February of 1962, the first passenger train travelled on the new Nordland Line from Trondheim to Bodø, Norway. The line, carved out through hundreds of miles of sparsely populated terrain and a brutal mountain pass, was hailed as a major engineering achievement at the time. Realistically speaking, it only took that long because that’s when we got around to it. Aboard this first train was a Surinamese jazz musician, on route to joining his band. They were going to spend a few weeks at a club in Bodø, entertaining the natives of this frozen, windy hellhole. This being Norway in 1962, there were approximately five people of color in the whole country. Thus, Norway’s largest newspaper found his presence on the train to be relevant. The cover still hangs on the wall somewhere in the newsroom, serving as a reminder to the copy editors of today.

Why is it wrong? The racism, the patronizing, etc.



Source: Chicago Tribune, November 3, 1948

Explanation: It had been a torrid three years in the Oval Office for Harry Truman, and few expected him to win re-election in ’48. Thomas Dewey, a New York mob buster, was the Republican candidate, and he contended that the best strategy would be to avoid making any mistakes. While Dewey sat back and waited for the electorate to come to him, Truman crisscrossed the country and ran a hugely energetic campaign. Opinion polls at the time were very unreliable (read: they were done by phone, which many people didn’t have, and were taken weeks before election day), so they didn’t pick up on the fact that Truman was gaining steam. On election night, the Chicago Tribune were so sure of the outcome that they just went with “Dewey Defeats Truman”. Presumably, the copy editor came in on the morning of the 2nd, typed it in, and then ran off to watch the Cubs lose. This is probably the most famous headline screwup in history. To their credit, the Tribune managed to change it in time for the second edition.

Why is it wrong? Because it gets the most basic fact wrong.



Source: The Sun, April 19, 1989

Explanation: Yes, a Murdoch paper had to make it into this. English soccer grounds in the 1980s were a sad sight. Due to dozens of cases of hooliganism and violence, authorities had decided that the best policy would be to put fans of the away team into “pens” – sections surrounded by massive fences on all sides. On 4/15/1989, Liverpool FC (THE English soccer team in the 80’s) played a game at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield. Thousands of Liverpool fans followed the team, and it became obvious that the away section would not be able to hold all of them. Nobody realized this and closed off the entrance, however, and eventually the people in the front rows started getting crushed up against the fence. Fans began climbing over the fence in a desperate attempt to escape. The police, distrustful of soccer fans in general, tried to stop them. It took almost half an hour before anyone realized how horribly wrong this was going and let an ambulance onto the field. 96 fans died in the disaster, which could have been averted if the police were less incompetent and distrustful. The Sun, Murdoch’s lead tabloid paper in the UK, published this cover four days later. To this day, nobody buys The Sun in Liverpool.

Why is it wrong? Because it claims to know the truth, and presents three very serious claims about people’s behavior, none of which were true.


Too Many Cooks on the Trade Agreement Spoil the Broth


Thousands of plucked chicken, hanging headfirst on an assembly line to get washed down with chlorine. A well-established method in the United States’ meat production to prevent salmonella. But also a scene that caused an outcry in the European Union, where this treatment is forbidden and released a wavy debate. About the negotiations on the EU-US trade partnership. Continue reading