Va. paper sorry after front page names wrong governor in corruption case

It’s every reporter and editor’s nightmare -- an incorrect front-page headline.

And the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published one for the ages on Tuesday, when the Virginia newspaper wrongly claimed on its front page that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe just had his corruption conviction thrown out by the Supreme Court.

“McAuliffe’s Bribery Convictions Tossed,” the front-page headline blared in big bold letters.

The problem is, the Supreme Court's landmark decision pertained to former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corruption case. While the story and image accurately reflected this, the headline did not.

As images of the paper’s typo zipped around social media, the paper quickly put out an apology on its website.

Editor Phil Jenkins told he was alerted to the error by an email from a reader.

“I woke up, checked my phone and saw an email from a reader about the mistake. Then I went to the box, saw the paper and felt sick,” Jenkins said in an email.

Jenkins also said he received a call from someone at McAuliffe’s office, who he said was "very gracious" considering the circumstances.

While McAuliffe is being investigated by the FBI over campaign contributions to his 2013 gubernatorial campaign, he had nothing to do with Monday’s  Supreme Court ruling.

The error, while going viral, is being reported sympathetically by some outlets, perhaps well aware of how such mistakes can happen. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza called the error a “there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I” situation.

“We all make mistakes,” Cillizza wrote.

In his official apology, Jenkins said there was no excuse.

“There are several factors that can help explain what happened. We’ve been struggling to adapt to a new software system. And on this particular story, we were making changes to the design of the page and in doing so strayed from our normal process for writing and editing headlines,” Jenkins said in the statement.

"But none of that excuses what was a massive and embarrassing error. We failed to live up to the standards our readers expect. And for that, we sincerely apologize,” he wrote.

Jenkins said the paper is hiring more editors to help catch typos, and they are instituting a new process for proof-reading.’s Adam Shaw contributed to this report.