AFR editor apologises to WA readers for ‘World is Fukt’ front page

The editor-in-chief of the Australian Financial Review has apologised for a headline that ran on the front page of its Western Australian edition today stating: “ARMS BUILDUP | BUYS PLANES | WORLD IS FUKT.” fukt Michael StutchburyMichael Stutchbury told Mumbrella that the error occurred after an early version of the front page was accidentally sent to print centres nationally and an attempt to recall it was unsuccessful for the Financial Review’s Perth edition which as a result was sent to press with the wrong version. The WA edition also had a number of blank spaces on the cover.

And in a separate production problem, some editions of the AFR in Sydney were published without a barcode making them difficult for retailers to process, leading to some copies being given away free of charge.

The newspaper is the AFR’s Anzac Day public holiday edition, meaning it is on sale for the next four days.

AFRStutchbury told Mumbrella by email:

“The WA edition is the result of a simple error that got through normal quality control and then ended up with an extremely bad result.

“The first thing I want to do is to apologise to Western Australian readers of The Australian Financial Review for the obviously unacceptable state of the front page of their paper this morning. It is an extreme one-off and we are going through our processes to make sure it does not happen again.

“We are still doing our full assessment of the issue. Our initial assessment is that the error began when production staff in Sydney pressed a wrong button early yesterday afternoon that sent a clearly unfinished version of the front page to print sites around the country. This error was quickly recognised and the page was recalled from all the print sites. For whatever reason, the recalling of the unfinished page did not succeed at the Perth plant.

“In response to your specific question, the error did not come out any subbing hub. The Financial Review does not use Pagemasters.

“Regarding the bar code issue, I am told that this is confined to the Sydney print site. Again, we are still doing our assessment on this. But I understand the barcode was sent to all print sites but somehow it fell off the file at the Sydney site.

“Contrary to some suggestions, I understand the impact on revenue will be relatively small. Most copies of the Financial Reviews are sold over the counter as opposed to subscription where the bar code does not matter. I understand that in most cases where there is a bar code problem, retail outlets can manually process the charge to the customer.”

Stutchbury said the number of NSW copies affected by the missing bar code was minimal: “Our circulation department has not received any complaints from NSW retailers regarding the lack of bar code. So the problem may be limited to a minority of copies.”

While the AFR’s publisher Fairfax Media has outsourced much of its sub editing to AAP’s Pagemasters, the AFR is still subbed inhouse. Earlier this week Mumbrella revealed Fairfax Media is set to end the subediting of its news pages for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Canberra Times by Pagemasters.

Nic Christensen 


  1. Sp?
    24 Apr 14
    5:59 pm

  2. Gallipoli passes without mention – surely that’s a hanging offence?

  3. Brian Mitchell
    24 Apr 14
    6:31 pm

  4. What an appallingly boring, long-winded and tedious response from a newspaper editor. How about “we fukt up, arses are being kicked and we’ll try hard to press the right button next time.”

  5. Paul
    24 Apr 14
    6:33 pm

  6. I can live with the world is fukt, but misspelling Gallipoli is pretty poor.

  7. Nate
    24 Apr 14
    6:48 pm

  8. Headline seems pretty spot on to me

  9. justsomechump
    24 Apr 14
    6:56 pm

  10. In their defence, the world is pretty fukt.

  11. Joe-Bob
    24 Apr 14
    7:12 pm

  12. Sounds like they need to have a good hard look at their SOPs and/or have a chat to any new sub staff.

    1) Did their editorial system warn of the incomplete page being sent?
    2) Did anyone phone the print site(s) to confirm the page recall?
    3) Did anyone check the pages after they’d gone through the RIP?
    4) Objects don’t just “fall off” a PostScript file “somehow”; was that page sent without the barcode and then recalled improperly as well?

  13. Bloz
    24 Apr 14
    7:16 pm

  14. As usual, mumbrella loves a Fairfax story

  15. minnie
    24 Apr 14
    7:35 pm

  16. surely heads must roll….

  17. mamaduck9370
    24 Apr 14
    8:15 pm

  18. I would say it was a fair summing up of the situation – a PM reducing military personnel salary, soldiers’ orphans’ allowances, cutting portfolios of Mental Health, Aged, Disabilities and Science (scientists invented the jet aircraft, btw, Mr Abbott), clinging to mediaeval Creationism instead of embracing Climate Change science and spending taxpayers’ money on jet aircrafts THAT ARE FAULTY (the European designed ones are better) while kowtowing to irrelevant “Royal” visitors who make speeches “admiring Australia’s quality of life”.

  19. Ann
    24 Apr 14
    8:24 pm

  20. No one used spell check on Gallipoli

  21. Nick Gye
    24 Apr 14
    9:00 pm

  22. I have the WA edition, gotta say I didn’t notice these errors till I logged onto Twitter. I am more pissed off at the recent price increase to $3.50

  23. Fact is
    24 Apr 14
    10:46 pm

  24. Just one correction, Mumbrella: the AFR is not subbed in house. It is subbed in New Zealand and has been for going on a year, by a team who know next to nothing about Australia and who introduce and miss perhaps as many errors as they catch. The Anzac edition fiasco is a rather spectacular example of what happens if you cut a newspaper’s in-house production team from a vast cast of experienced journalists to a stretched-to-the-limit handful forced to abandon the necessary checks and balances in the rush to meet ever tightening deadlines night after night. The real wonder is it doesn’t happen more often.

  25. fact isn't
    24 Apr 14
    11:45 pm

  26. Can someone please explain to Mr Fact Is what the NZ in ANZAC represents.

  27. Read the yarn
    25 Apr 14
    7:32 am

  28. @Fact is: your point about the feckless NZ subs is somewhat undermined by Stutchbury’s statement that the error was made in house, in Sydney: “the error did not come out any subbing hub.” I agree with the rest of your comment about stretched resources and lack of time leading to mistakes though.

  29. Jennifer Russell
    25 Apr 14
    10:55 am

  30. Love the honest headline (even if it was a thought which was not meant to go into print). At least one of your journalists has the correct perspective!!!!

  31. Jo Healy-North
    25 Apr 14
    11:14 am

  32. “. . . the error did not come out [???] any subbing hub. The Financial Review does not use Pagemasters.” (Maybe they should . . . )

    Too funny! Go get them, Michael. Tell it like it is.

  33. Spinned out
    25 Apr 14
    11:24 am

  34. Sturchbury does not know where his paper is produced. The AFR has been subbed in NZ for ages. The same place Fairfax iust taking the rest of the work that is currently subbed at Pagemasters. These cookups are the result of not having dedicated subs for a paper that goes out very early to very many print sites. One can only imagine what goes by on a day to day basis.
    As for the Stutch explanation: balls!

  35. marian
    25 Apr 14
    1:08 pm

  36. Anyone in publishing knows how this happens. It is the stuff of nightmares – the art directors working copy ahhhh. We are human, mistakes happen.

  37. Othello1971
    25 Apr 14
    1:24 pm

  38. Gosh. Best thing that’s happened to editing in Australia in ages. No witch-hunt pls. Breath of fresh air. Game on.

  39. demon
    25 Apr 14
    3:12 pm

  40. The page plainly had not been subbed so it’s wrong to blame any sub in any place SPINNED OUT.
    It’s clearly an early layout page. Pretty obvious really.
    At any rate, the front page is always done by the publication not in NZ.

  41. Joe-Bob
    25 Apr 14
    3:30 pm

  42. Absolutely. But I reserve the right to snigger at this “explanation”.

    For example, the only way a barcode could appear on some papers from a press but not others would be if they made a plate, loaded it onto the press, printed some papers, stopped the press, made a new plate, removed the old plate from the press, loaded the new plate onto the press, and continued printing.

    Any halt or delay to printing costs several (or many) tens of thousands of dollars. Do you think this happened and no-one knows about it?

  43. Megan
    25 Apr 14
    4:01 pm

  44. Oops. So glad my mess-ups don’t go on the front page.

  45. Aussie_Austridge
    25 Apr 14
    4:35 pm

  46. Sounds like Fairfax staff had an early version of what we in the Public Service call POETS Day – Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday.

  47. Buggerlugs
    26 Apr 14
    9:14 am

  48. A massive error like this means they were short-staffed or put their staff under too much pressure or they have too many juniors working for them.
    Given the massive sackings Fairfax has seen in recent times, and cost-cutting, errors like this should hardly be a surprise.
    There was a time when errors like this wouldn’t have happened with a publication that used to set the standard in editing. The Fin was exactly that once.

  49. Mike C
    26 Apr 14
    10:22 am

  50. Publicity stunt to counter falling revenues?

  51. Rosemary
    2 May 14
    9:14 am

  52. I just love the honesty of the front page – the world is truly ‘fukt’ – not so happy about the misspelled “Galippoli but am currently bidding on eBay for this historical edition which will make an excellent talking point once framed and on my living room wall !