The Case of the Mystery ‘Mangina’ AKA Why Dan Went Bonkers for 10 Minutes in Seattle

When I think back on one of the odder 10-minute stretches of my year so far, a memorable quote and a singular emotion quickly compete for attention in my brainspace.  The quote, from a harried campus newspaper editor-in-chief: “Mangina?! Who would type Mangina?! Why Mangina?! What is this mangina business?”  And the emotion: an intense urge to, politely, strangle one of my student staffers.

It began this past Friday evening in the Renaissance Seattle, site of the ACP National College Journalism Convention, when I received an email from a staff writer at The Minaret, the student newspaper I advise at the University of Tampa.  According to the staffer, the university’s athletic director had been referred to as ‘Mangina’ twice in an article appearing in our current magazine issue.

Furrowed-eyebrow flummoxed was my honest first reaction.  The core editorial team was in Seattle with me.  We had arrived the day before the issue hit newsstands.  They had vetted the story drafts and page proofs of course, but wouldn’t see the final print product until Monday.  Was this message from the staffer, who was still on campus, a joke?  Or had a weird and seemingly vulgar typo accidentally appeared or purposefully been placed in one of the issue’s stories?

In a follow-up email, the staffer sent me a pic of the offending portion.  My heart sank.  See below.  Can you spot them?

In the hotel lobby, I quickly broke the news to the paper’s EIC, a journalism and graphic design genius with impeccable fashion sense and an ever-present five-day stubble with nary a hair out of place.  His mouth went agape.  His eyes drooped.  His stubble fought back tears.  We quickly popped onto his laptop to check the story.  Cue perfect storm.

The online version of the story wasn’t uploaded yet because of our Seattle trip.  The magazine PDF was on Issuu.com but the hotel Wi-Fi was acting funky, enabling us to only see the small-ish page specs and unable to load the full screen version.  We zoomed in on the spec and narrowed our eyes, fuzzily spotting what the staffer’s email to me had earlier confirmed.  There were a pair of mystery “Mangina” references near a portion featuring the school’s athletic director.  They served as the attributions to a paraphrased statement and a quote that were seemingly spoken by him.

We quickly talked out what the heck might have happened, and the randomness of it all.  Had the story’s staff writer typed it in as a joke and forgotten about it?  Had a copy ed. been fooling around late at night in the newsroom?  Had spellcheck or autocorrect turned evil?  And how did the many pairs of eyes checking each story we published miss not one, but two, vulgar references?  As the EIC said at one point in the lobby, not just to me but the mad, mad West Coast world which we currently inhabited, “Mangina?! Who would type Mangina?! Why Mangina?! What is this mangina business?”

In our darkest moment (minute 8), the EIC spoke about immediately firing the offending staffer(s), while I briefly considered good-natured strangulation.  We also talked of course about sending an uber-sincere apology to the athletic director, his family, the school, and anyone who’s ever been a man or sported a female reproductive organ.  The EIC called a section editor who was at a restaurant nearby in Seattle.  The section ed. responded simply, “Wait, what?”  The phone was then handed to a second section editor.  Similar confusion.

It might have been the long-days-no-sleep schedule of the convention or just the sincere oddness of the word itself, but the idea that it might have been an actual reference to someone else in the story did not occur to us until minute 10.  We at last tricked Wi-Fi into letting us into the Google Doc draft of the story.  And that’s when we saw it: a reference near the start to a young woman who happens to sport the last name Mangina (pronounced, from what I understand, ‘man-geena’ as in Geena Davis or blue jeans).

Audible sighing.  Laughter.  I think a high-five.  Mangina mystery, solved.  I emailed the staffer back on campus to confirm she had simply missed the earlier reference on her first read-through.  Her reply: “That’s a very unfortunate last name. Sorry to give you a freak-out.”  She put a smiley face at the message’s end.

:) The End :)

To check out the current issue of the Minaret, click here or on the screenshot below.

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