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Editorial gaffe on Lightning leaves Tribune to apologize

A glitch had Tuesday's newspaper expressing condolences instead of congratulations.

Published June 9, 2004

TAMPA - Tampa Tribune publisher Gil Thelen found the mistake as the sun came up Tuesday on the Tampa Bay Lightning's first full day as champions.

"The Tampa Bay Lightning didn't win the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup last night," the Tribune's editorial began. "But the team had a championship season nevertheless."

Thelen hoped his home-delivered newspaper was one of a few featuring the wrong editorial. When he got to work he learned it had run in all 275,000 copies.

By mid afternoon, the BBC, CNN, ESPN and the Associated Press had carried stories about the gaffe. Several people posted copies of the Tribune on eBay, the Internet auction site. One copy Tuesday evening had attracted a bid of $8.50.

Thelen called a news conference to apologize for the error. He blamed it on "a series of missteps at several points in the production process."

No employees would be reprimanded, he said. "There is no villain in all of this, other than that we stretched too far. This whole ordeal has been enough."

The Tribune had two editorials ready Monday night, one for a Lightning loss, one for a victory. It's a common practice for newspapers covering sporting events that end close to deadline.

Before the Lightning beat Calgary, a page was designed with the "Lightning lose" editorial "as a placeholder on the page," Thelen said. Somehow, the "win" editorial never made it through the computer system to the presses.

"I don't think there's any news outlet that can't empathize with what the Tribune went through today," said Neil Brown, managing editor of the St. Petersburg Times. "It can happen. We just kind of keep our head down and hope it doesn't happen here."

Jay Preble, a spokesman for the Lightning, said he hadn't read the Tribune.

"And I can guarantee you none of our players have read it," he said. "They're sleeping late, playing golf. They're on cloud nine. They know they won."

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 01:00:39]

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