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One for the books

Posted by: | October 23, 2012 | No Comment |
With the upcoming presidential election, I thought it would be great to talk about the rarely told story of the Chicago Daily Tribune’s most famous headline, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.

Courtesy of http://www.trbimg.com

On election night of the 1948 presidential race, radio reports confidently predicted a victory for Republican challenger, Thomas E. Dewey, over incumbent President Harry S. Truman , including the paper’s Washington Correspondent Arthur Sears.  Managing editor, J. Loy Maloney, proceeded with making the headline call.

The headline was a publisher’s worst nightmare, but it wasn’t the only mistake. Many factors contributed to the production of this erroneous edition.  At the time, election results were returning slowly and they were running out of time before the printing deadline.

A strike by the  Chicago Daily Tribune’s staff forced the paper to go to press hours before it normally would and coupled with the lack of typesetting experience of the replacement staff, it was a recipe for disaster.

Typos were not corrected, instead they were “x”ed out with the “x” key on the typewriter.  On the right hand column on the front page, five lines of the election coverage were typed upside down.  Oops!

After learning that Truman had in fact defeated Dewey, the Tribune’s staff rushed to collect all the newspapers that had been distributed with the embarrassing headline.The next edition’s headline was changed to say ” DEMOCRATS MAKE SWEEP OF STATE OFFICES.”


President Truman went to bed losing the election, but woke up the next morning to find he had pulled the greatest upset in American politics.  He was handed a copy of  the “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” paper and when asked to comment he said, “This is one for the books.”  I could not agree more.

under: Comm 455
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