Copy editors ... become reporters to fix errors

The headline: Copy editor's catch gets a gold medal

By Lou Gelfand
Staff Writer

A newspaper is as good as its copy editors. The Star Tribune's Paul Walsh explains why:


One night (Feb. 8) I was writing a photo caption showing one woman passing the Olympic flame to another woman. The photographer's caption said they were Katie and Lisa Eccles. The name of the site of the Games' opening ceremonies is Rice-Eccles Stadium.

I felt I needed to explain how these sisters got this torch opportunity and what their relation was to the stadium.

I cast as many lines in the investigatory waters as possible.

- I called Katie's law firm at 9:40 p.m. Twin Cities time and left a message with a human asking that Katie call me back.

- Lisa had a phone, but it screened out any phone numbers the phone didn't recognize.

- I prowled the Salt Lake Tribune Web site and found background on the family connection to the stadium (construction donation) and the fact that Lisa heads the family foundation.

- I found on an e-mail address for a Royal Eccles in Ogden, Utah, so I e-mailed him with my challenge.

- Just before 11 p.m., Royal, the sisters' cousin, e-mailed back. He explained the family history and also asked to see the photo. I downloaded it and sent it to him in an attachment. He e-mailed again and said the sisters in the picture were Katie and Hope, not Katie and Lisa.

- I had the photo editor call the photographer. He said each torch bearer wore a number, and a roster of those torch bearers indicated it was Lisa. But I went with the human account, which seemed more reliable than a list.

Once our first metro deadline passed, Katie got my message and called back. She confirmed that it was her and Hope in the photo and explained that Hope and Lisa had switched places, thus making the torch bearer roster inaccurate.

So, in fully explaining why people in a photo were doing what they were doing, we avoided an inaccurate identification.

That's what copy editors do. And to show it's not just me:

I took the foundation name from the Salt Lake paper - the George S. and Delores Dor Eccles Foundation. Colleague Jeff McMillan was suspicious of the "Dor" and thought it might be "Dore." Further checking proved Jeff right and made that A1 caption airtight accurate.


Copy desk supervisor Steve Fisher said, "Because of Walsh's investigative skills, our metro edition probably was the only newspaper to get the names right."

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