Every newspaper editor I know has the same philosophy about ghastly mistakes.
We much prefer them to be made by somebody else’s newspaper.
It’s not a matter of schadenfreude, that wonderful German word meaning the enjoyment one might obtain from the troubles and suffering of others. No, editors are far too noble a breed for that kind of pettiness.
Rather, it’s not unlike being one of a herd of wildebeests making its way across the Serengeti, glancing toward the high grass and seeing a pride of lions munching on one of your wildebeest buddies. You shrug — assuming wildebeests do, in fact, shrug.
“Hmmm …” you say vacantly to the nearest member of the herd as you trudge along. “Looks like they got Ernie.”
Unfortunate for Ernie, of course, but you’re really, really happy that the lions chose him instead of you.
On a human level, it’s similar to those of us who occasionally go a smidgen over the speed limit. We look in our rearview mirror and see a police car with its strobe lights going like crazy … and the cop pulls over someone else.
That pretty much sums up my sentiments when I see something horrendous in some other paper. I’m glad it wasn’t mine … but I know that no matter how diligent I might be, it’s only a matter of time until I’m the wildebeest providing a nutritious lunch for some hungry lions.
It has become my custom to devote my first column of the year to the mistakes this newspaper has made over the previous 12 months. To be clear, they are the errors we knew about and for which we wrote corrections. If we are like most papers, we are only aware of a small percentage of the things we get wrong.