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Newspaper Editor Resigns after Joke Mistakenly Printed

September 18, 1989

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The city editor of the Philadelphia Daily News has resigned after a joke he inserted into a news release was mistakenly printed, the newspaper announced Monday.

Tom Opdyke had slipped the joke into an announcement of scholarships being established in memory of the late NBC newswoman Jessica Savitch. Miss Savitch drowned in 1983 when the car in which she was riding plunged into the Delaware Canal in suburban New Hope.

Opdyke had electronically inserted a phrase stating that the scholarships in broadcast journalism would also be available to students seeking ″college instruction in automobile-escape techniques.″

In an article in Monday’s editions of the Daily News, editor Zachary Stalberg quoted Opdyke as saying he never intended for the phrase to appear in the newspaper. Opdyke said he had planned to add a notation saying the phrase was not part of the news release, but forgot.

When Opdyke saw the phrase in Thursday’s early edition, he had it corrected for the later edition and pointed out the error to Stalberg, the editor said.

The reporter who wrote the story, based on the altered news release, and other editors who handled it ″did not know the phrase was anything but genuine,″ Stalberg said.

The newspaper ran a correction and apology Friday.

″It was a terrible error, and an apology to the Savitch family and to the name of Jessica Savitch seems to fall short,″ Opdyke said in a statement.

Stalberg called Opdyke a ″skilled and serious newspaperman,″ but said he had violated ″the one immutable standard of a professional news organization,″ tampering with the news.

Opdyke, 36, had been with the Daily News since 1986 and was named city editor in mid-March.

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