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An apology for our inexcusable headline error

    First of all, I apologize for the appalling error that appeared in the lead headline of Thursday’s Statesboro Herald. I apologize to the family and friends of Brandie Danielle Davis for our carelessness that is inexcusable for such a sensitive and tragic story. I apologize to our readers for doing our jobs in a manner that brings into question our competence and credibility.
    I’m going to attempt to explain how the error occurred. It was a combination of a glitch that popped up in one of our computers and then a lack of attention to following proper procedures by personnel beginning in the news department on through to the printing of the paper.
    Here’s what happened:
    We use a publishing program called Quark Xpress to design the pages of the newspapers. By design I mean write the headlines, and place the stories and photos you see in the paper every day. Once a page is finished, it is printed out and proofed for errors. The process was followed with the front page of Thursday’s Herald and no errors were found.
    The next step is to create what is called a PDF (Portable Document Format) of the page. Creating a PDF essentially locks in exactly what the page will look like when printed. This is where the headline error was introduced.
    The headline type, or font, on the particular computer where the PDF was created was corrupt. That caused the headline to drop out the apostrophe between the “n” and the “s” in the first word of the headline and create the space between the “o” and the “m” in the last word.
    While that may sound somewhat complicated, to find the error and correct it is very simple – open the PDF of the page, see the error and then PDF the page from another computer. The procedure, however, of checking the PDF was not followed correctly and the error remained on the page when it left the news department.
    The next part of printing the paper is to create a negative of the PDF. The glaring error still was not spotted and a plate for the printing press was created. The plate was then put on the press and the printing of the paper was started. When copies of the paper started coming off the press, the error again was not detected.
    The printing was completed and the newspapers were delivered.
    That’s what happened. But I can’t reasonably explain to you how such an obvious and dreadful error was not caught and fixed before it was distributed to the public. There is no reasonable explanation. It is the worst, single error I personally have been associated with in my 28 years as a journalist.
    Again, I apologize to Ms. Davis’ family and all of you.
    Our indefensible mistake can’t be taken back. It is printed in black and white and will always be there. As executive editor it is both embarrassing and humbling. And while I can’t make a 100-percent guarantee an error like that won’t happen again, I can promise I will ensure our news department always follows proper procedures. Simply being diligent will eliminate 99 percent of our errors.
    A reader left a voice mail Thursday about the error. Here is part of what he said: “If that’s the best you can do, you really need to regroup and look at everything again.” He’s right. And we will.
    Executive editor James Healy can be reached at (912) 489-9402.

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