On the error scene: Looking good for a dead man

From time to time, we make mistakes.

Yes, that’s perhaps a surprising revelation – not that we make mistakes, but that we readily admit to it. That’s difficult in any line of work, of course, but we’re committed to owning up to our errors.

A recent embarrassing flub came with a caption that accompanied the Almanac feature, which runs in the Chicago Tribune print editions.

We published a photograph with an accompanying caption that said: Criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow, shown in 1956, died March 13, 1938, in Chicago at age 80.

Our readers took this in a good-spirited way, recognizing it for the unfortunate mistake it was, and had a little fun with us. We heard from dozens of people via email, phone calls and social media.

Some examples:

  • Carol Cleveland, Elmhurst: Clarence Darrow looks pretty good in the picture on today's Obit page, considering that, according to the caption, he had been dead for 18 years when the picture was taken. Thanks for a laugh.
  • Don Evans: Thought you should know .... Clarence Darrow was looking pretty good, for a dead guy.

Our bad. Here’s what happened.

The person who wrote the caption believes the goof occurred in picking up the date the photo was filed in our archives, which was 1956. The remedy, the person said, would have been to have re-read the cutline one more time. “The mistake probably would have jumped out at me,” the editor said.

Keep the emails and notes coming when you spot errors. We have a process in which we ask our staff members to provide corrections for errors and brief explanations about what happened.

The email is readerhelp@tribune.com, or call 312-222-3348.

--Margaret Holt, Standards Editor

Copyright © 2018, CT Now