55 Yard Line - CFL

The Montreal Gazette came up with a doozy of an error Monday. In the wake of the B.C. Lions' 34-23 win over Winnipeg Sunday, the newspaper added insult to the Blue Bombers' injury, leaving them out of the Grey Cup game completely. As you can see from the at right, the Gazette had the score right in their front-page promo box in Monday's paper, but got the losing team wrong, giving B.C. a win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats instead of Winnipeg. For the record, Winnipeg thumped Hamilton 19-3 on the field in the East Final.

There's an interesting story behind the mistake that Craig Silverman pointed out over at Regret The Error. Silverman is also the editorial director for OpenFile, and one of their correspondents, Montreal news curator Sarah Leavitt, tracked down the copy editor involved, the Gazette's Steve Faguy (who also runs a popular blog and occasionally contributes to Open File). Here's some of what he told Leavitt:

I was the one who wrote the pointer (the headline which contained the error) on the front page, and through it all it never hit me that it said "Hamilton Tiger-Cats" and not "Winnipeg Blue Bombers." To say it's embarrassing would be an understatement. I could appeal to the fact that it was written in the rush to deadline, that I was low on sleep and that I wasn't the one who put the names of the teams on the page, but not catching something like that really has no excuse. I await the flood of reader insults. I can't make fun of other media's giant front-page mistakes without taking some of the punishment myself. (I expect I'll be hearing it from my colleagues as well)"

And here's what Faguy wrote on his own site about how he found out about the mistake.

I got an email this morning from Sarah Leavitt at OpenFile asking if I was working last night "when the Grey Cup mess up on the front page happened." Since I had no idea what she was talking about, I turned on my laptop and looked at it. I read the pointer text I had written, looked at the photo of the players and of the Grey Cup, looked at the page number it pointed to. I looked at the score to make sure it went in right. Yeah, it was 34-23 for the Lions...

Oh crap.

In case it hasn't occurred to you, the error, which appears downpage on A1 on Monday, is that the name "Hamilton Tiger-Cats" should be "Winnipeg Blue Bombers". It's not like I wasn't aware the Blue Bombers were the ones playing. But for whatever reason it didn't hit me as I was filling in the rest of the text that Hamilton wasn't the right team.

And it didn't strike the other editors who read the front page, who are not big sports fans and had specifically asked me to write this text because they were worried about getting something fundamental wrong.

I feel for Faguy here. We all make dumb mistakes (I've made plenty just this week), so it's certainly understandable that he could drop the wrong team in, especially late at night and on a tight deadline (which Western Grey Cups always are for Eastern print media, even with a reasonably early start time like we had this year). Moreover, Hamilton was getting a lot of attention in the last couple weeks, too, thanks to espionage, that East Final and then one of their legends getting in an infamous brawl during Grey Cup Week, so the Tiger-Cats haven't been far from the mind. Also, in the context of the entire front page (which you can see at right; click to enlarge), the error isn't all that obvious, as the promo box is buried most of the way down the page.

A mistake like this is fun to laugh about, but it's also easy to imagine the shoe being on the other foot. Good for Faguy for publicly taking the blame and explaining how it happened. We've all messed up many times over the years; he just happened to do so in a particularly notable way, one many of us live in terror of.

Faguy's mistake doesn't mean he or the paper's staff are incompetent, or that they don't cover the CFL or anything of the sort. They made an honest mistake, they've admitted to it and issued a correction. It's just a good laugh for now, and a reminder to be sure to check even the most basic facts. Sometimes the most elementary mistakes are the easiest to make, as you think you know them rather than actually going and looking, and they're generally far more embarrassing than mistakes about intricate, complex details. Keep in mind that we all make mistakes at our jobs day to day; Faguy just had the misfortune to have his displayed to the country.

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