The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Columns

March 3, 2013

Vos: Newspaper’s mistakes not so funny

(Continued)

During my first job as an early twentysomething copy editor, I was told one day that there was no markets/stock page. No problem, I thought. The next day, I got called into the editor’s office and asked why there were no stocks or markets listings in the paper.

“Because there was no markets page,” I said.

Wrong answer.

Back then, before they invented that super-fast information highway called The Net, newspapers always published lots of stocks listings. No matter what. You found space, even if you had to yank out — brace yourselves — comic strips or part of a sports page. (In fact, those print edition listings are still important to our readers, and thanks to the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation, we just added three pages of stocks and mutual fund listings to the Saturday edition.)

I used to have a grumpy-old-man neighbor who would call me over to his yard where he had two lawn chairs conveniently stationed. After I plopped down next to him, he’d hit me with what I naively thought was a straightforward question. “So, what day is it?”

I’d answer quickly, falling into his trap. “Monday, wh ...?”

He’d cut me off: “Not according to your paper.”

He’d found an inside page with the wrong day listed in small print on top.

Another time he asked me what direction a Mankato hilltop road ran. After living next to him a few years, I knew what he was getting at. “Which accident report did we mess up?”

I didn’t mind those neighborly newspaper critiques. I was happy to have such a dedicated reader nearby — plus I got past his crusty exterior and he usually fed me pie or freshly picked apples. He didn’t just complain about mistakes; he filled me in on the history of North Mankato, told me who was who in town, and had the perspective of knowing how things had changed in the area over the years. He died a couple of years ago and I still miss him, even his goading about the latest mistakes in the paper.

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