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Rob Curley: Dewey defeats Zags? Not really

UPDATED: Sun., Feb. 26, 2017, 12:29 a.m.

 (Chris Soprych / The Spokesman-Review)
(Chris Soprych / The Spokesman-Review)

Those of us who love newspapers and the history of newspapers, have almost certainly seen the 1948 cover of the Chicago Tribune.

You know the one.

Yep, the one with President Harry Truman holding up a front page from the Tribune declaring that he had been beaten by Thomas Dewey in the election.

Heck, the same thing happened earlier this month to the Boston Globe as early versions of its Super Bowl edition carried the headline “A Bitter End” as the Patriots had no chance of coming back against Atlanta.

Sometimes this happens because newspapers make a guess and just flat-out guess wrong. And sometimes, like in the case of the Boston newspaper, it’s that versions of the paper are being printed so early that, well, I guess that’s called a guess, too.

And Saturday night, as Gonzaga lost its last home game of the regular season to BYU, a group of Spokesman-Review employees from across several different departments began packing up 6,000 newspapers aimed at celebrating what would have been the Bulldogs’ perfect season.

This is something newspapers do.

We love to build something that will delight our readers and celebrate a milestone in our community.

But we’re also prepared for no one to see that work.

That’s even happened recently in our own state. In 2014, the Seattle Times had done something similar, just in case the Seahawks won their second Super Bowl title. With a few minutes left in the game, the newspapers had even been taken down to the field.

And, as we all know, no one got to see them.

But a version of our newspaper that no one was supposed to see unless the Zags won on Saturday was seen by some people on Friday.

Our publishing systems inadvertently made them public for a few hours on Friday to readers of our newspaper’s e-edition.

No one was more horrified than we were. Or maybe sad is the better word.

Preparing things ahead of time is something lots of newspapers do. Newspapers often write obituaries for famous people well in advance so that they are honored appropriately when they do pass.

On the day of the recent presidential election, our newspaper had prepared an elaborate front page that spanned two full pages. The only way to do it was to build it well in advance.

So, we built three different front pages: one for Donald Trump winning, one for Hillary Clinton winning and one that could be used if the election was too close to call or had not been conceded yet. Stories were pre-written for all three outcomes.

That’s how the Nov. 9, 2016, edition of our newspaper had 16 pages of election coverage – with no ads, all stories and photos. It was loaded with coverage of all of the regional elections and the largest amount of presidential election coverage of any printed newspaper in the nation.

And to do that, lots of work went into a whole bunch of pages and stories that were never seen.

Just like this Gonzaga special edition was only supposed to be seen if the Bulldogs had pulled off the unthinkable.

But you know what?

We’d do it again.

Surprising our readers is something we love to do. Even if it means that a whole bunch of our work will never be seen.

Or at least not meant to be seen.


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