Despite false claims that news outlets print and broadcast “fake news,” journalists all over the world painstakingly try to correct every published error. But one typo survived undetected for 102 years on the front page of the venerable New York Times.
The stealth typo first appeared on the front page of the February 7, 1898 edition of the Times. The night before that issue was published, an unknown editor made a mathematical error, increasing issue No. 14,499 from February 6 to issue No. 15,000 on February 7. In the confusion, 500 issues disappeared overnight, and no one caught the error for over a century -- until a news assistant did some research in December 1999 and discovered the problem. On January 1, 2000, the Times fixed the error and published a correction.
Tracking down the typo:
- Manually updating the issue number every day was a recipe for disaster, the 24-year-old news assistant had told his editors. So he combed through thousands of archival issues and eventually found the gaffe.
- In the New Year's Day issue, the Times reported, in part: “The 500-issue error persisted until yesterday (No. 51,753) … today the Times turns back the clock to correct the sequence: this issue is No. 51,254.”
- While sometimes embarrassing, newspapers always try to correct errors. That day’s correction included the realization that “an article on March 14, 1995, celebrating the arrival of No. 50,000, was 500 days premature. It should have appeared on July 26, 1996.”