National newspaper calls Idaho…Iowa

It is a commonly made mistake. A slip of the tongue, or an error made by the misinformed that can make an Idahoan cringe. Even so, it isn’t a mistake that is usually made on a national level by a publication seen by millions of eyes over the course of one day.

We live in Idaho, not Iowa. But, according to the Wall Street Journal, they are one and the same.

A mistake made in a headline of Thursday’s paper read, “Bankruptcy for Iowa County.” The dateline directly below the headline, which reads Boise County, Idaho, may clear up the confusion, but the obvious error is still there. And in a newspaper, it is permanent.

So how does a mistake of this magnitude happen in such a prominent and reliable national newspaper? We called the author of the story, Stan Rosenberg, to find out.

Rosenberg explained that he works for the Dow Jones Newswire, and his story was picked up by the Wall Street Journal.

“Occasionally, what happens is, sometimes, frequently, they pick up our stories. Maybe in an edited format for the Wall Street Journal, maybe in its original format,” Rosenberg said over the phone. “Somewhere between one and the other, the state changed. We had it correctly on the wire, and incorrectly in the paper.”

Stan admits when he learned of the error Thursday, he immediately checked to make sure he wasn’t the person who made the mistake.

“In the beginning I said, ‘Oh my God, I really blew this one.’ But it wasn’t me,” Rosenberg laughed. “I don’t know who it was, so I sent them back a note… …I asked them to run a correction. I don’t know what they’re going to do about it, but you know, I apologize for that.”

In talking with Rosenberg, it was clear he does know the difference between Idaho and Iowa — but even someone who knows, isn’t immune to a slip of the tongue.

“This is the first municipal bankruptcy filing this year, if I’m correct,” Rosenberg said. “Certainly the first in Iowa in a long time.”

Aside from the Idaho-Iowa mistake, Rosenberg did bring up some valid concerns regarding counties that file for bankruptcy.

Rosenberg primarily writes about public finance. He reported on the bankruptcy filing of Vallejo, California in 2008. He said the county did not benefit much by filing for bankruptcy, because it ended up with millions of dollars in legal fees when it was over.

“Bankruptcy doesn’t really get rid of the debts. No guarantee. It’s not like you or I filing for bankruptcy on a personal level,” Rosenberg explained. “This is municipal bankruptcy; the debts don’t really go away. They just have to find a different way to pay them.”

Rosenberg said he is interested in the Boise County bankruptcy situation because it is such a small county, and it is the first municipal bankruptcy filing so far this year. He plans to follow the story, and hopes if the Wall Street Journal picks it up again, it might be more careful when it comes to the minor details.

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