Waiting for my breakfast sandwich in the Old Town Bakery, about a three-minute stroll from our digs on Grinnell Street in Key West, Fla., last week, I spied one of those free weekly newspapers. My first real editorial job out of college was at one of those rags, so I get a quick hit of nostalgia whenever I see one.
This particular fish-wrapper—and I use that expression fondly as only a former newspaper person can—is called the Florida Weekly. And the front-page story of its Key West Edition was headlined, “The 39th Annual Key West Super Boat World Championships.”
The week prior on Thursday, October 31, the Key West Citizen, a local daily newspaper, ran a story in its Paradise section titled “Super Boat National Championship to power Key West Nov. 6-8.”
For those of you who may have missed the most obvious and inexplicable error—meaning none of you—the Super Boat nomenclature is a product of Super Boat International, the former producer of the Key West races. Race World Offshore, on the other hand, the producer of this year’s races as well as the next four years of those races, was not mentioned in either story. Nor were any of the classes, none of which—point being—are called “Super Boat” under the Race World Offshore umbrella.
I expected the Florida Weekly to butcher its explanation of offshore racing, and with lines such as “racing around a six-mile course through waves at speeds close to 200 mph” I wasn’t disappointed. But even the greenest editorial intern likely wouldn’t have gotten the name of the event wrong.
For the record, it was the Race World Offshore Key West Championships.
As for the Key West Citizen, it ran a correction the following day in which it got both the name of the race producer and the race dates correct. But the text in the original train wreck of a story seemed familiar to me and, sure enough, I found that most of it—including a quote from SBI head John Carbonell—had been taken directly from old content posted June 19 on the Super Boat International website.
A full retraction would have been more appropriate for the situation.
A correction is something a publication runs when it makes an honest, small-time error, like when you write that Mrs. Smith has six children when Mrs. Smith only has five children. A retraction is something a publication runs when it gets an entire story wrong, like when you say all of Mrs. Smith’s children are illegitimate and yet all actually are the spawn of Mrs. and Mr. Smith, who have been happily married for 30 years.
The Key West Citizen should have retracted the story because nothing about it was correct. But the paper opted for a correction, which was better than nothing—but not by much.
I’m at a loss to explain how both publications managed to get the race producer’s name wrong. The Key West Citizen itself has not lacked for stories on Race World Offshore—several published with permission from speedonthewater.com—earning the five-year contract to produce the November races in Key West. The story had no byline, which never is a good sign, so I have no idea who wrote it. But he or she could have at least looked at a back issue or two of his or her own paper before writing and making the publication look woefully uninformed about an event in its hometown.
As for the Florida Weekly story, there’s a reason why such papers usually are free. But I still get nostalgic when I see them.