Local newspaper ‘headline’ goes viral after proofreading error

Local publication Cambridge News made the rounds online after it was published with the design instructions splashed across its front page, instead of the actual headline.

A powerful, concise headline is crucial to grabbing readers’ attention—unless you forget to publish one entirely.

Such was the case in Wednesday’s front page of Cambridge News, a local newspaper in the United Kingdom:

Instead of a headline, the design instructions were published—in 100-point font.

Twitter users had a field day poking fun at the proofreading mishap:

BBC News also sniped at the error in a write up on its website:

In an apology to readers, Cambridge News wrote:

The headline should have read ‘£2m for ‘sex lair’ school’ in reference to a story printed on page 11 of today’s newspaper.

Cambridgeshire County Council has given the cash to Sawtry Village Academy to help with repairs after former principal James Stewart spent funds on holidays and making a ‘sex lair’ on the premises.

It tweeted:

The publication’s editor-in-chief, David Bartlett, also tweeted an apology:

Some pointed out that the blunder gave the Cambridge News more publicity:

Other journalists pitched in with their own tales of editing woes:

The gaffe shows that mistakes happen, which can be a comforting fact to any communicator who has published an erroneous tweet or didn’t proofread a press release carefully.

It also proves that how you respond to a mistake can win plaudits.

McDonald’s also provided PR and marketing pros with an example of a proofreading error getting wide distribution. Its social media team sent a Black Friday tweet from its corporate brand handle that was improperly prepared:

After the mistake went viral, McDonald’s kept the tweet—and poked fun at itself, which further earned praise:

That’s not to say that PR and marketing pros shouldn’t put an emphasis on proofreading, however. You should also be mindful of how little time overworked media professionals have for proofreading.

Cambridge News’ mistake, though funny, also shows the unfortunate effects of shrinking newsrooms and overworked journalists.

Independent reporter Lizzie Dearden tweeted:

The Press Gazette reported:

BBC News reporter Alice Hutton, who worked at Cambridge News from 2010 to 2012, tweeted that the cuts to the design team followed “the sacking of nearly all the subs several years ago as the paper bounced between three different owners since 2012- each chewing off another limb.”

She said: “You may think this error is funny (and who doesn’t look a good subbing error?) but in this case you are laughing at the dismantling of local democracy, the ability to fight for communities and the loss of dozens of livelihoods.

“The reporters who still work there now (and there aren’t many) work incredibly hard in a newsroom so empty of journalists, subs and sales staff that they have all moved on to a single floor. They break exclusives, hold power to account and lay out their own work and headlines.”

What are your tricks for avoiding proofreading gaffes, PR Daily readers?


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