As in any line of work, journalism is susceptible to mistakes. Unlike many, however, ours can happen on the front page where everyone can see it.
On Friday, I was very proud to see our 1A centerpiece celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.
It was lovely and had everything — an Apollo astronaut and the American flag on the surface of the moon. But, Charleston, we had a problem.
There was also a lunar rover in the picture. This was not an image from the historic 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing; this was James P. Irwin from the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.
In my position as managing editor, I also wear the hats of design editor and acting graphics editor, the latter of which means I’m mostly responsible for garnering file images for the publication.
We had planned earlier in the week to do a special front for Friday, so I quickly gathered photos from the Associated Press archives for our designer to work with.
Unfortunately, in my search, the image of Irwin was in the same batch of results as the iconic picture of Buzz Aldrin. In my hurry to grab good art, I failed to read all the captions and lumped them all together.
That was my first mistake.
The second mistake came when looking at the proof. I am now one of only a handful of people on staff old enough to remember the Apollo program. I knew the lunar rover did not go up on the first landing, but in my focus on the astronaut, the flag and the lunar module, I didn’t notice the second vehicle that shouldn’t have been there in ’69.
And now it’s part of the permanent record — with a correction forthcoming, of course.
If we’re lucky, aside from the chiding of an eagle-eyed readership, that’s the worst fallout of our mistakes. (The worst usually involves lawyers.) The only salve we can apply is that we get another chance to do a good paper with our next edition and that we will try harder to be more careful in the future.
(Hat tip goes out to reader Patrick Baker who pointed out the error.)