Mistake at the UK

Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.

For this edition of At the UK, I would have preferred to talk about our feats of the past week: about the moving video of a deaf-blind little boy we published last week (which was a bonafide hit), or the story about how people can reclaim brokerage fees they unjustly paid for their rooms, or the tongue-in-cheek story about Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa’s illustrious predecessors.

But I won’t be talking about those pieces this time. This is what I’ll be talking about: Last week, the UK made a mistake. Around noon, when the editors were finishing up the newsletter, the Lower House was talking to education minister Jet Bussemaker about internationalisation of higher education and the RUG plans for a campus in Yantai, China.

Our editors were closely following the proceedings (by watching the Lower House’s livestream). Pending the outcome of the debate, which was important to the RUG, we decided to move our deadline and put out the newsletter a bit later.

Quick quick quick

I don’t mean this as an excuse but merely to provide some context. It was a hectic time: everything had to be done quick, quick, quick, and many things were happening at once. It turned out to be the perfect breeding ground for a mistake.

Paraphrasing Bussemaker, we wrote the headline: ‘No Yantai before autumn 2019’. That should have been 2018.

An outsider might say: so what, it’s just one year. I don’t want to get too technical or detailed, but that difference of a year does matter quite a lot to the RUG. So much depends on it: it’s a large and complex project with a lot of moving pieces and involving many parties.

You might wonder how we managed to make such a mistake. It’s difficult to explain, but it basically comes down to this: we weren’t listening carefully. When we listened back to the debate again at debatgemist.nl, Bussemaker clearly said 2018, and not 2019.


To quote La Rochefoucauld: mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. Which we did, immediately. We corrected the news on the website as well as on Twitter and Facebook. To the article, we added a box with an explanation, because the newsletter (containing the wrong year) had already been sent out.

Annoying? Yes. Embarrassing? Certainly. But know this: the person who is incapable of making a mistake, is incapable of anything (Abraham Lincoln).

Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief



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