Apostle Misspelling Leads to Colossal Newspaper Recall at BYU

What happens when an apostle becomes an apostate at Brigham Young University?  More than 18,000 newspapers are recalled, an entire issue is reprinted, and an article-length apology (and apologia) is run.

The offending word (apostate roughly means an individual who abandons and criticizes his religion) appeared in the cutline of a photo run on the front page of Monday’s Daily Universe, BYU’s student newspaper.  BYU is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the related photo showed members taking part in the church’s General Conference.  The cringe-inducing cutline read: “Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostates and other general authorities raise their hands in a sustaining vote. . . “

In an article on the incident (passed my way by the wonderful Steve Veres at UWIRE), Universe staffers describe the error as accidental, caused by a dangerous cocktail of automatic spellcheck, a multi-tasking copy ed., and an ever-present deadline that made proofreading more like speed-racing.  The Universe editorial manager:

Our copy editor in charge of the front page, who was under deadline pressure, was using spell check on her page and had misspelled the word apostle.  One of the first options that came up on InDesign’s spell check suggestions was the word apostate. Unfortunately that’s the one she clicked on. It still should have been caught by two more levels of review after that, but again with deadline looming, the worst possible thing happened.

The chair of the school’s Department of Communications, which oversees the lab paper: “We don’t think this error is glib or cute or humorous. We understand people will take offense to the error. We ourselves are offended as a department for this error. We have a deep regret that it appeared in today’s paper.”

While regretful, the most dramatic part of the recall, individuals literally removing all newspapers from racks around campus, did provide at least one lighthearted moment.  A BYU undergrad witnessing papers being grabbed by the stack without explanation thought the person taking them might have been using them to line her bird cage.  As he told the Universe: “My first thought was, ‘How many birds does she have?’”

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