A humiliating picture error and other memorable newspaper gaffes | Media First

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A humiliating picture error and other memorable newspaper gaffes

Usually newspapers report the news rather than make it.

But earlier this week the Irish Herald found itself in the unusual position of making headlines for other publications, as well as creating a social media storm, after a high-profile photograph gaffe.

The paper caused a crisis media management incident all of its own after seemingly taking its eye off the ball completely when it somehow managed to confuse Manchester United’s new striker Romelu Lukaku with grime artist Stormzy.

The newspaper’s back page lead story on Monday was headlined ‘Lukaku is ready for work’ and was illustrated with a picture of the musician wearing a tracksuit of the club he supports.

The embarrassing own goal was shared widely online and covered by the likes of BBC News and the Daily Mail, while the Herald was forced to eat a large helping of humble pie with a quick apology – something we recommend on our crisis communication courses - which spoke of being ‘totally embarrassed’.


The Irish Herald’s gaffe was particularly glaring but it is not the first newspaper to make a humiliating error – during my own newspaper career we once ran the front page headline ‘Total choas’, which perhaps suggested there was more confusion in the newsroom than there was in the story.

Here are some other memorable newspaper errors:


The not so anonymous source

It’s not clear what publication printed the story on Tom McEldroon’s anger about a construction project being planned near his holiday home area.

But sources are likely to have concerns about speaking to its journalists in future.


The article printed Mr McEldroon’s name followed by the line ‘who asked to remain anonymous’.

Clearly he didn’t ask hard enough.


The Pope is not Catholic

The Times found itself having to make an embarrassing clarification in 2015 having reported the somewhat surprising news that Karol Wojtyla was the ‘the first non-Catholic pope for 450 years’.

The paper apologised the following day by saying: “This should, of course, have read ‘non-Italian’”.


Bad maths

The New York Times was forced to publish an apology last year after one of its articles included a small mathematical error.

The article on wave piloting in the Marshall Islands reported the number of paths which could be navigated without instruments among the 34 islands was a ‘trillion trillion’.

The apology clarified the real figure was a somewhat smaller 561.


A storm in a tea(m) cup

As motivational quotes go, the comment attributed to the then chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers at the start of a new football season takes some beating.

Sir Jack Hayward was quoted as saying: “Our team was the worst in the First Division and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the Premier League.”

The Guardian was quick to offer ‘profuse apologies’ the following day with the following memorable explanation: “Sir Jack had just declined the offer of a hot drink. What he actually said was ‘Our tea was the worst in the First Division and I’m sure it’ll be the worst in the Premier League.”


headline headghgh

Sometimes it can be pretty hard to find the perfect headline for a story.

But you get the feeling the Mid Bedfordshire edition of the Times & Citizen simply didn’t try when it titled its front page lead story ‘headline headghgh’.


The filler text was complimented by a strapline which read ‘strapline for main story like this if needed’.

The infamous front page was shared widely on social media and even turned in to a T-Shirt.


‘We sure feel silly’

It surely doesn’t get much more embarrassing for a newspaper than spelling its own name wrong, particularly when the error has pride of place at the top of the front page.

But that’s what happened to New Hampshire’s Valley News when it managed to put an extra s on the end of its name.

The glaring error was at least acknowledged the following day in an editor’s note which said: “Given that we routinely call on other institutions to hold themselves to account for the mistakes, let us say for the record: We sure feel silly.”




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