Our Bad: ‘Chicago Defender’ Apologizes For Dropping Mass. Gov. Story

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By: E&P Staff

Since Roland S. Martin took the editorial reins of the Chicago Defender, the black-oriented daily has featured big, attention-grabbing front pages with themes that are, as part of its new motto says, “Unapologetically Black.”

Thursday’s edition was no exception — and was pegged to a story certain to attract its core audience: Deval Patrick, raised poor on Chicago’s South Side, was about to be inaugurated the first African American governor of Massachusetts, and only the second black governor in U.S. history. See the story on page 6, the front page said.

“Unfortunately, all of you turned to page 6 and it wasn’t there,” Executive Editor and General Manager Roland S. Martin wrote in a note to readers Friday.

It was, he said, “a huge screw up.” There were a number of irate calls to the paper, Martin said, adding he understood the anger: “It should have never happened, and we look amateurish because of it.”

What happened, Martin explained, was that the staff had already made up a page 6, filled with national stories, but only images of Patrick preparing for Thursday’s inauguration.

“Since I didn’t see a story on the national Associated Press wire, I called the AP Chicago bureau and had them check the Massachusetts wire,” Martin wrote. “The helpful staffer found it, and emailed the story. I then called my page 1 designer and told him to pull page 6 and that we were substituting it. He notified the copy desk, as well as our production department, and then the printer.”

By 10:45 Wednesday night, the page had been remade, and was converted to a PDF file.

But it never got e-mailed to the printer, and the production staff — seeing the original page 6 of national stories — assumed that was the new page.

“Big mistake,” Martin wrote. “As a result, all of us woke up to the reality of having a screaming headline of a proud South Side native set to become governor, only to have the paper blow it by not having the story.”

Martin said the paper’s production processes have been tightened, and he apologized for what he said was failing to follow “the basic rules of journalism” of checking and re-checking.

The dropped story, plus an account of the inauguration, was published in the Friday paper.

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