Headline Headaches

Posted: November 09, 2000

It's been a rough couple of days for Fred Zipp, managing editor of the Austin American Statesman, the hometown Texas newspaper of candidate George W. Bush.

Day 1: Had to recall 59,000 newspapers that bore the headline "BUSH!" in nearly 2-inch letters, some of which were being sold to die-hard Bush supporters who remained at a rain-soaked downtown rally rabid for the latest in election news.

Day 2: Had to talk to dozens of newspaper reporters from across the country who interviewed him about his newspaper's gaffe.

"Knowledge that a printed newspaper contains a headline that's obsolete is certainly unpleasant," Zipp said stiffly by phone from the Statesman newsroom. Delivery trucks from the newspaper were called back early yesterday and ordered to dump the faulty versions in a warehouse, at no small cost to the Statesman.

But the Statesman was not alone. Dozens of newspapers across the country printed at least some editions that had stories and headlines incorrectly proclaiming Bush the winner.

The New York Post, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, San Francisco Chronicle, Charleston Gazette, Raleigh News & Observer, St. Petersburg Times and Bush's college newspaper, the Yale Daily News, were among the dozens proclaiming victory for Bush in some of their versions.

In Philadelphia, the Daily News went with the accurate "BUSH, MAYBE" for its entire press run. The Inquirer, however, chose "Bush Edges Gore" in its primary edition. In later editions the headline was changed to "Still No Winner."

One edition of the Atlantic City Press read "It's Bush." The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill, N.J., went with "Bush Declared Winner" before reverting to "Bush, Gore in Tight Race."

Yesterday's events recalled the famous image of President Harry S. Truman in 1948 holding up a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune that bears the headline "Dewey Defeats Truman."

And history repeated itself.

The 300,000-plus circulation St. Louis Post-Dispatch's final deadline at 1:18 a.m. yesterday came just as television networks and the Democratic National Committee chairman were saying that Bush had become the president-elect.

"By the time appropriate staff members were notified of developments, our press run was almost over," the Post-Dispatch's executive editor, Richard K. Weil, said to the paper's Web site. Their banner headline: "Bush Wins A Thriller."

If there's a silver lining to yesterday's migraine-inducing developments, it may be found on ebay.com, one of the more popular Internet auction sites.

The top price found for a copy of the 25-cent New York Post that declares "BUSH WINS" - $100.01.

Send e-mail to angelem@phillynews.com

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