Deadline pressure yields a "mess" of a World Series column
Fans who went to The Post's Web site Monday to read Tom Boswell’s coverage of Sunday’s World Series game were treated to the same incisive, colorful copy they’ve come to expect from one of the nation’s premier baseball columnists.
But those who read Boswell in Monday morning’s newspaper encountered a mess. By my count, the column contained at least 20 typos, grammatical errors or misspellings.
“I’d like my 75 cents back, please,” wrote reader Mitch Zeller of Olney, who had purchased a copy of Monday’s Post at the Bethesda Metro station. “There is no excuse for such a shoddy product. It’s completely unprofessional; more errors than one would see in a high school or college newspaper.”
Added Rob Riordan of Alexandria: “Please, rescue Mr. Boswell from the pressure of the midnight deadline. Give him, and your readers, back your copy editors.”
Riordan put his finger on a primary cause: tighter deadlines. It’s the same problem I wrote about last week in explaining why up to 185,000 Post readers were no longer getting late game coverage of the World Series, the Redskins’ Monday night game or the Wizards’ exciting season opening victory in Dallas.
The need to cut costs forced The Post to close its College Park printing facility some months ago and consolidate operations at its other printing plant in Springfield. That, coupled with the need to deliver papers to subscribers who now begin their commutes earlier due to worsening traffic congestion, has resulted in deadlines being moved forward.
Sunday’s thrilling Game 4 in Philadelphia ended shortly before midnight, and Boswell filed his story at 12:07 a.m. Crafted literally as the game was unfolding in the exciting late innings, the story came in rough. And it was longer than the allotted space, leaving editors to try to edit and significantly trim it within about 20 minutes while they also edited and packaged other World Series stories and stats. Editors hit the button on Boswell’s column at 12:25 a.m., just shy of the 12:30 a.m. final copy deadline. They knew it had received only cursory editing, but the alternative was to hold it out of the paper. That would have angered readers who have come to rely on Boswell’s keen insights.
The result was passages like these:
- Extra rest for a pitcher “may be on crucial value” instead of “may be of crucial value.”
- “...the Yankees had reverse the tide” instead of “reversed the tide.”
- “...tactics that may bare on the rest of the sears” instead of “bear on the rest of the series.”
A year ago, Boswell would have experienced the same acute pressure. But instead of trying to make the final edition, he would have been trying to make The Post’s second edition, the so-called “Suburban” that goes to communities beyond the District and its inner suburbs. If his copy couldn’t be edited by that 12:30 a.m. deadline, it would have simply been held out of that edition. Boswell and his editors would have had an extra 45 minutes to polish his story for the final edition, which has the largest press run.
But now, 12:30 a.m. is the final deadline for the last edition. If a story doesn’t make that deadline, it doesn’t get in any papers.
Sports Editor Matt Vita praised his copy desk for “making sure as few mistakes as possible get into the papers under the incredible deadline pressure that they’re facing for every World Series game.”
But he acknowledged that “more mistakes and typos got through on (the Boswell) column than we would have liked.” He added: “Everyone knows that deadlines are not an excuse and we have to do better.”
Once past Monday's final deadline for the newspaper, Boswell and his editors turned to producing a clean, more concise version that ran online. If you're a baseball fan and couldn't wade through the sloppy column in print, the Web version is worth a read.
| November 3, 2009; 2:33 PM ET
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