We’ll keep shooting for the perfect paper

Ohio debuted its new license plate this month. It depicted the Wright Brothers’ first airplane pulling a banner that reads “Birthplace of Aviation” draped across the horizon.

It would have been beautiful, except that instead of the odd-shaped original aircraft pulling the banner, it was pushing it.

The person who designed the plate attached the banner to the wrong end of the plane.

Everyone had a good laugh over the mistake. The Associated Press moved a story with the headline “Ohio mangles license plate.” Ohio isn’t the only one who has made this “flighty error,” the AP wrote, making light of the situation.

You see, the front of the Wright Flyer easily can be mistaken for its back because the plane’s propellers were located at the back, instead of the front, as they are on today’s aircraft.

I chuckled as I read the story last week and made a mental note that it might be funny column fodder.

But later as I sat down to write this column, I suddenly found some compassion for the anonymous responsible party, realizing it wasn’t really so funny.

I say that because I prepared to write this column after reading the day’s newspaper and coming across the usual typos or spelling errors that, as always, left me shaking my head and frustrated.

I cringe — even more, believe it or not, than the English teachers who regularly read this newspaper — each and every time I see a stupid error in our pages. And believe me, I do catch them, unfortunately, it’s often after the paper has been printed.

I’m still shooting for a perfect newspaper. I’ve been doing this for more than 25 years, and after putting out more than 9,100 editions during that time, I haven’t achieved it yet. Maybe I will by the time I retire — but probably not.

People ask me why my “proofreaders” don’t catch the typos.

Consider the speed in which we do this, day after day. The work includes researching, reporting, writing and then laying out the stories — tens of thousands of words in dozens upon dozens of stories, obituaries, columns and graphics every day — most of it within just a few hours, and all in time for the information to hit the press shortly after midnight. The staff has to hustle because if we don’t hit those deadlines, the paper won’t get printed in time for you to be reading it with your morning coffee.

This column, for instance, usually comes in at around 700 words. I typically write it in about an hour.

Our reporters generally research, report and turn out at least two stories per eight-hour shift — sometimes more than that. The stories are edited carefully, but efficiently, and then moved along to the page designers like an assembly line. It is a lot, indeed, and all at a high rate of speed.

And there are a lot of moving parts. Our staff doesn’t just put out one newspaper every day, we produce two unique newspapers every day — both the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator. We do all this with top-notch people who work incredibly hard to present fair and accurate news. Metro Editor Tom Wills frequently refers to the operation as a “word factory.” I think that title captures well the essence of what we do.

At the end of the day, though, yes, we make mistakes. After all, don’t we all?

The good news is, so far, I’ve always gotten another chance to shoot for that perfect newspaper. I hope you keep reading and have patience with us while we try again tomorrow.

And, as for the designer of Ohio’s new “Birthplace of Aviation” license plate, he or she will get another chance, too.

After the plate unveiling, Ohio officials said in a statement that they were aware of the mishap, and it would be corrected to show the banner trailing the plane before Ohioans upgrade their licenses.

The plates are expected to land on the market Dec. 29.

I’m just glad to say I don’t have to wait that long for my next shot at turning out a perfect newspaper.


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