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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Monday, October 04, 2010

An unfortunate position for colleagues

It was surely not the first "not-for-print" joke between colleagues to make print, but the fabricated quotes in Saturday's Detroit Free Press notebook about Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch caused enough of a stir as to have the digital edition page B2 removed by early Sunday afternoon. (Subsequent attempts to recover the page by downloading the entire Saturday edition also failed.)
A correction for the error appeared in Sunday's edition on B1, thoroughly apologizing to the Lions organization, Vanden Bosch and coach Jim Schwartz.
Also, Lions beat writer David Birkett, a former beat writer for The Oakland Press, did not travel to Green Bay for the game. All Lions copy in the Sunday edition was attributed to "From staff reports."
Copy from the Green Bay game written by backup writer Shawn Windsor.
The story in question titled "Driven Vanden Bosch sits out practice to rest back," was a shared byline between Birkett and Carlos Monarrez.
The story read: (This is a reproduction of the Saturday print edition)

It was a tough week for Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.
First, he was spotted Thursday driving out of the Lions’ Allen Park practice facility — in a Ford Taurus with a dealer’s license plate. Why would a $28 million free agent drive a Taurus?
“Because he’s bankrupt,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “No. Really. His Porsche was in the shop for service.”
Schwartz decided to put Vanden Bosch himself up on blocks by holding him out of practice with a tight back that limited him Thursday. Vanden Bosch was listed as probable on Friday’s injury report.
“It’s just been something and a little bit more of a coach’s decision there also,” Schwartz said of his reason for holing out Vanden Bosch. “He can practice, but sometimes you just want to rest guys and things like that and let them save it till Sunday.”
Vanden Bosch s famous for his relentless work ethic and has resisted previous attempts to sit out practice.
“Anytime you want to cut his reps, it’s going to be a fight,” Schwartz said. “But also, he’s a veteran player. He understands it’s not about going on a Thursday. It’s about going on a Sunday. Vanden Bosch admitted it was for his own good.
“Yeah, I hate missing practice,” he said. “I enjoy practice. But the teams, what we want to do on Sunday comes first, and we want to win. I think in the long run and the short term just resting a little bit will help.”
But Vanden Bosch said he didn’t fight Schwartz over the decision.
“Nah, I don’t argue with him,” Vanden Bosch said. “Not the head man.”

Let's keep this in perspective, not confusing this with fellow Freeper Mitch Albom's fictionalized account of a night at the Final Four with Michigan State alums (which served as a case study in my college copy editing class led by Freep staffers). The encounter in his column never materialized, but ran in the Sunday edition anyway, because Albom was forced to make his Friday deadline for a Sunday column.
This is what it is: a goofy anecdote in a short notebook item. Nothing more. It's an exhaustive attempt to ensure readers knew Vanden Bosch, a multi-million dollar athlete commandeered a blue collar (and very well respected sedan) Taurus, one of the best-selling cars of all-time.
Having worked with Birkett for a couple years, I can say this never happened in his time with The Oakland Press. Hopefully, this scares fellow reporters from "joking" with content that could find its way into the paper. It's like dummying pretend headlines, or even better, dummying headlines with curse words. My pages typically read like this until I write a headline "asdfadsf asdfadsfadfsa" to get the spacing correct.
As with any big error, there's an opportunity to learn and move forward.


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