As you may have read in my bio. I was employed in the newspaper industry for nearly
twenty five years and during that time I worked in virtually every department. It was extremely hard work but there were amusing moments too and I thought I would share some of those with you.
Typographical mistakes were fairly commonplace but ‘proofs’ were usually requested so that
mistakes were spotted in time. One I remember that luckily was corrected in time read:
Mr and Mrs Smith are pleased to announce the engagement of their lonely daughter
When I first started in a small regional office in Shropshire, typewriters were all that were used and the clatter from the editorial department as the articles were rattled off remains with me. Editorial clangers however were not usually funny and just resulted in legal action and printed apologies, but advertising mistakes were a different matter and usually had an element of humour in. I can assure you, you need one to work in newspapers!
Artwork for the advertisements were drawn up by ‘artists’ for the reps if they were lucky! More usually pictures from ready prepared books that were bought in were chosen. In one particular
book the original artist who had drawn up a gardening page, must have had a bad day as plastered all over the page of garden tools in all sizes of typeface was the word ‘Sod’ and 'Sod it!' over and over again! It was surprising that the page had slipped through the net!
As time went by and the industry evolved big, bulky computers were brought in. Not only could advertising space be booked for the planner but advertising reps could typeset smaller lineage adverts themselves. Time was always at a premium so shortcuts were used. For example the ‘alt’ key and other keys could be used that would automatically insert a few words that were regularly used such as ‘Tel:’ A death notice that had been typeset in this way was unfortunately not spotted until it was too late and printed. It read:
‘The burial of Mr Albert Jones, ‘taxed and MoT’d,’ took place last week.......
Needless to say there was hell to pay! Profuse apologies had to be made and the question was asked ‘How on earth could such a thing happen?’ Well actually it could and did happen all too often. The pace and pressure of a newspaper’s deadlines meant that sometimes it was a miracle that the paper was printed at all!
An ‘In memoriam’ advert that was misheard by a telesales girl went thus:
‘Mathews Reginald 20th December 19XX A beloved father, grandfather and uncle. Dearly loved, your presents particularly missed at this time of year.
It should of course have read ‘presence!’ This actually appeared in the paper and no doubt everyone thought he must have been a very generous relative to have!
An especially funny one that was actually printed by a rival newspaper group reported the cancellation of a race meeting:
The racecourse at xxxxxxxxxx was closed last Tuesday as the ground was too wet due to large amounts of sleet and snot falling!
The ‘w’ had of course been accidentally replaced by a ‘t’!
Estate agents copy was always particularly trying. Vast numbers of boxes with photos and text had to be collected (before deadline) and put together correctly with probably several proofs to’ing and fro’ing. This was always fraught and one rep who had obviously had enough of one particular estate agent messing her about sneaked in at the bottom of the page:
XXXXXXXX Estate Agents - down your street and up your back passage!
Spotted and deleted by the production department the rep was summarily dismissed with the estate agent in question none the wiser!
I have saved my favourite until last. Telesales sometimes took larger display adverts over the phone and this particular advert was quite large and for a pub. The story went that the landlord had wanted a really bold heading with the name of the pub at the top. The establishment was called The Tartan Toad which admittedly is an unusual name. The telesales girl had set the advert herself and duly complied with the request for a large header. When the paper came out the advert certainly stood out! There on the dining out page was written in extremely bold typeface:
The Tart and Toad! It makes a change from the Princess and the frog I suppose!
Ah, those were the days - or then again perhaps not!
All names have been changed apart from the last one!