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Bob McDonnell in 2010 (Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia)

Terry McAuliffe and Bob McDonnell are two different people with two different names. Tell that to the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia. That daily newspaper’s mix-up of their names in a front-page story claimed that McAuliffe, the current governor of Virginia, was convicted of bribery and that the U.S. Supreme Court had just vacated those convictions.

However, it was Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s governor from 2010 to 2014, who was convicted of bribery and who was just left off the hook by the nation’s high court, which unanimously ruled this week to vacate McDonnell’s 2014 corruption convictions, CNN reported.

The newspaper’s editor Phil Jenkins offered “a sincere apology” June 28 for the error, which it said happened because of a combination of new software and skipping typical editing practices. Jenkins called the mistake “a massive and embarrassing error.”

Jenkins told iMediaEthics that McAuliffe’s office contacted the newspaper about the error. “I would not characterize it as a complaint and the person I spoke to was very gracious when I explained what happened,” according to Jenkins.

Jenkins said the newspaper will publish the apology on its front page because “it was a significant error and we owe our readers a prominent explanation and apology.” He said he learned about the mistake after a reader e-mailed him this morning.

Jenkins added, “Many readers have justifiably expressed concern and dismay about the mistake. Some have offered words of encouragement. I hope they all will accept our apology and give us the opportunity to regain their trust.”

iMediaEthics has contacted McDonnell and McAuliffe’s representatives for comment on the error and apology.

The Free Lance-Star has a circulation of about 32,000 on Mondays to Fridays, according to its media kit.

See below the front page.

Jenkins’ full apology is below:

“Due to editing errors, the headline was wrong on our front-page story Tuesday about the U.S. Supreme Court vacating former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s convictions.

“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.

“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.

“We are in the process of hiring additional editors who will help us do a better job of avoiding and catching mistakes. In the meantime, we’re instituting a new process for proofing our pages to ensure that our readers receive the quality product they deserve.”

The news of McDonnell’s vacated convictions made the front page of many Virginia newspapers. Below see a few front pages, via Newseum.

VA_TRT VA_DPRESS pilot richmond

Hat Tip: Mediaite

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Virginia Newspaper Mixed up Terry McAuliffe & Bob McDonnell, Apologizes for Front-Page Error

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