Scratch one off the career bucket list

Once in a lifetime will you get a perfect opportunity to make a headline out of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” lyrics. You’re stinking right I took advantage of mine.


(Oh, did I mention that I took a job on The Dallas Morning News’ sports desk last summer? No? Awkward.)

The events that led to this headline reaching hundreds of thousands were about the biggest streak of professional luck I’ve experienced.

We’ll have to skip over the luckiest part in which I land this new gig in the first place. There’s no way to tell the story of how I ended up in Dallas without burning some bridges. Nothing to do with former employers, just a newsroom that backed out of an agreement to employ me.

I got incredibly lucky on the night Tim Cowlishaw wrote this column that’s come to describe my own NFL relationship. He wrote in a way that brought Queen immediately to mind.

It was the first story I read on the night, so I had plenty of time to mull over the headline. I usually have a tough time coming up with headlines for columnists, but the lyrics were the first thing that came to mind on my initial read. I couldn’t get the song out of my head, and I had no plans on suffering alone.

Another strike of luck was having an editor in charge who appreciated the headline enough to bend our design rules. Typically, the DMN wouldn’t run a five-line headline (let alone one with a three-line deck), but my editor gave into my annoying salesmanship about how the headline was special and awesome enough to accommodate.

With the headline written, I worked on the deck. I tried to continue the song’s rhythm as best as I could. I somehow found a way to interrupt the song’s flow for only one line of text. I managed to sneak in an extra bit of the song while pretty well summing up Cowlishaw’s column. I think that’s worth celebrating

And I had some people agree with me.

My direct boss even emailed me over vacation to compliment the headline. That felt great.

Unfortunately, I checked with HR and they said one kickass headline isn’t enough to automatically qualify me for early retirement.

My best catches: Q1 2013

My office gives out the CQ Award for Copy Editing Excellence quarterly to the copy editor whose recent catches best illustrate how we save the paper’s bacon. This is a sampling of the catches I submitted for Q1 of 2013.

Items in strikethrough were removed from the story, highlighted items were added.

Jan. 9 — The conference will examine the laws and regulations put into place by the bill’s extension and its affect effect on crop insurance, according to a release.
NOTE: Wrong word.

Jan. 9Reservations and more information can be obtained by contacting To reserve a spot or to obtain more information, contact Harrison Pittman at or (479) 575-7640.
NOTE: House style on imperative tone

Jan. 9Caught factual errors in story confusing the term “immigrant” and “alien” in comparison to house stylebook and dictionary definitions. Story was held.

Jan. 9 —The Quorum Court’s Administration Committee voted 7-0 to recommend the ordinance “expressing the willingness of Pulaski County to share [the] cost” of the bridge to the full Quorum Court, which meets on Jan. 22. The Quorum Court’s County Services Committee voted 4-2 in favor of the proposal with two abstentions. It needed five votes in that committee, which has eight members. A recommendation from one committee is enough to advance the proposal to the full Quorum Court.
NOTE: Clarifies that one failure doesn’t kill proposal

Jan. 9 — Under a proposed agreement of understanding between Pulaski County and the Highway Department, the county would pay the $20 million in three virtually equal payments over three years beginning with a payment of $6,666,666 after construction bids are received but before the contract is awarded. The two remaining $666,666,667 $6,666,667 payments would be submitted one and two years after the initial payment, according to the proposed agreement.
NOTE: Number error to the tune of $1.32 billion (you’re welcome, taxpayers)

Jan. 12 — Arkansas should toughen it’s its human-trafficking laws and provide more services for victims, a group of lawmakers said Friday.
NOTE: Wrong word; caught on slot

Jan. 13 — Lawmakers will spend much of their time dealing with a projected $298 million Medicaid shortfall.
NOTE: Number error – missing million; caught on proof

Jan. 14 — Last Easter, a pipe bomb was found outside a Mormon church meetinghouse 11⁄2 miles from Harrison.
NOTE: Mormons use different terminology.

Jan. 16 — It would provide $235 million to rebuild the flood-damaged Veterans Administration Affairs hospital in Lower Manhattan as well as other VA medical facilities in the region.
NOTE: Agency’s name changed in 1989.

Jan. 16 — The city is opposing Judge Wendell Griffin’s Griffen’s order to pay $2,397 to the owner of the Heritage House Inn for delaying the motel’s reopening after the South University Avenue motel had been shut down by court order for eight months for repeated city code violations.
NOTE: Misspelled name

Jan. 28 — The state Senate passed a bill last week that would add Arkansas to a 42 43-state compact that waves waives state-specific academic requirements for the children of active-duty military members who have met similar requirements in other states.

Arkansas is one of eight seven states that has not joined the compact. The others are Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, New York , and New Hampshire. and Washington D.C. Washington D.C. also hasn’t joined the compact.
NOTE: Washington, D.C. mistaken for a state, causing numerical errors.

Jan. 29District closes 2nd time in week due to sickness Second district in week closes due to sickness
NOTE: Factual error in original headline. Closures were in two different districts. Caught on slot.

Jan. 29 — TULSA — Tulsa police have arrested a man on a first-degree murder complaint for in a stabbing death.
NOTE: For implies guilt, opens up possibility of libel. Caught on slot.

Jan. 29Community centers to get new workout equipment Community centers seek upgrades to workout gear
Working out at Little Rock’s Jim Dailey Fitness and Aquatic Center is about to get a little more high-tech as new equipment rolls into the fitness center and two of the city’s community centers.
Staff at Little Rock’s Jim Dailey Fitness and Aquatic Center hope to make workouts a little more high tech with plans for new equipment.
NOTE: Hed and lede jump the gun, nothing approved yet. Caught on slot.

Jan. 29Police spokesman Sgt. Cassandra Davis offered no further suspect information Monday and said that investigators were interested in identifying the woman and speaking with her.
NOTE: Missing first reference. Caught on slot.

Feb. 2 — Two Springfield, Ill., women were arrested Thursday evening, one for on charges of trafficking in persons and the other with on charges of promoting prostitution, according to Little Rock police.

A Little Rock man was arrested Thursday for his involvement in in connection with a shootout shootout earlier this last month at the Woodhaven Apartments in Little Rock.
NOTE: For implies guilt; wrong month.

Feb. 5 — Vytas Ratkevicius, a resident of Vilnius, Latvia Lithuania, lights a wood stove to heat his apartment on Jan. 23.
NOTE: Factual error, wrong country. Caught on slot.

Feb. 17 — By comparison, Courtway said, Pepsi’s contract, which expires May 30, has provided about $120,000 annually in auxiliary revenue. Of that sum, UCA has been giving 70 percent $70,000 to athletics, 25 percent $25,000 to the student center and 25 percent $25,000 to housing.
NOTE: Percentages added up to 120%. Called reporter who found out the numbers were actually dollar amounts.

Feb. 23 — Smoke billows from a burning car vehicle Friday morning as a North Little Rock firefighter lays down a stream of water. The car vehicle caught fire in a westbound lane of Interstate 40 near the JFK Boulevard exit.
NOTE: Judging from photo, the vehicle appeared too high off the ground to be a car.

March 1 — “Jambo” means “Welcome” in African Swahili.
NOTE: Factual error. “African” is not a language.

My best catches: Q4 2012

My office gives out the CQ Award for Copy Editing Excellence quarterly to the copy editor whose recent catches best illustrate how we save the paper’s bacon. This is a sampling of the catches I submitted for Q4 of 2012.

Items in strikethrough were removed from the story, highlighted items were added.

Oct. 7 — He remembers periods from about 2003 to 2007 that brought 10 to 15 annexations a year for the city, Wheeless said. At one time, the southwest border of Bentonville stopped near a curve marking the intersection of North Walton Boulevard with South Walton Boulevard split of U.S. 71 and Arkansas 12.

NOTE: N. and S. Walton do not intersect. Story was referring to “Rainbow Curve” (Bentonville colloquialism) a few miles south.

Oct. 24 — Thousands of Muslim pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, circle the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure that Muslims around the world pray to seven times a day, during events Tuesday ahead of the annual hajj, which begins later this week.

NOTE: Factual error. Muslims face the Kaaba when they pray, but only pray five time a day. They circle the Kaaba seven times while on hajj.

Oct. 31 — After answering the door of his southwest Little Rock home, a man was shot and killed in his doorway late Tuesday afternoon morning, marking the third killing in the city in less than a week.
According to police, Darrin Williams, 43, heard a knock on the door of his 3 Sandhurst Circle home about 11:30 a.m. and went to answer.

NOTE: 11:30 a.m. is still morning.

Nov. 10 — In a statement, Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin thanked all whose donations and efforts have made the memorial possible.

NOTE: Missing first reference

Nov. 27 — The Ward businessman set to appear before a judge this morning after his Saturday arrest for fatally shooting in the fatal shooting of an employee was upset about the victim’s sales performance, according to investigators.

NOTE: For implies guilt, possible libel issue

Nov. 27 — A Stuttgart man faces 229 charges after police arrested him for and accused him of trying to cash stolen lottery tickets in a Little Rock convenience store, according to arrest reports.

NOTE: For implies guilt, possible libel issue

Nov. 28 — The high school closed in 2009 when enrollment at the Gillett School District dropped below 350 students — a number mandated by the state. Students are bused to nearby DeWitt.

NOTE: Under Arkansas law, school districts are subject to shut once total DISTRICT enrollment drops below 350. Story originally made it sound like high school’s enrollment fell below 350.

Dec. 1 — Robert Lee, 39, was charged Friday with theft by receiving for in the theft of a 53-foot trailer from Virginia on Nov. 10. The trailer is valued at more than $17,000, the arrest report states.

NOTE: For implies guilt and opens us up to libel.

Dec. 10 — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday said it will take up same-sex marriage sometime during the current term. Several pending cases challenge the federal benefit provision of the act. A separate appeal asks the justices to decide whether federal courts were correct in striking down California’s Proposition 8, an amendment that outlawed gay marriage, after it had been approved by California courts in the nation’s largest most populous state.

NOTE: Factual error via vagueness. California is most populous, Alaska is largest by area (Calif. is #3)

Dec. 12 — “He said it was total devastation,” Farris said. “He never talked a lot about his military time. It was a horrible, horrible site sight.”

NOTE: Wrong word.

Dec. 17 — In Van Buren County, 39.1 percent of children were found to be living in poverty in 2011, up 9.8 percent percentage points from 2007, the highest percentage percentage-point increase of the five counties identified by census estimates.

NOTE: Percent vs. percentage point