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.” Michael 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.
Stutchbury 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.