We gave a number of readers a bit of a fright a week ago, due to some hasty, unfortunate editing of our “Florida briefs” column in our main news section.
We didn’t mean to scare anyone and it wasn’t some pre-Halloween exercise.
The headline on the news brief in question read:
“UF takes zombie plan from site”
The text below the headline read:
“GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The University of Florida’s response plans for a zombie apocalypse are no longer available for public consumption.
“UF spokesman Steve Orlando said Friday the university removed a link to a disaster recovery exercise, which detailed how the school could respond to an outbreak of the undead. The link was taken down late Thursday afternoon.”
End of story.
We heard from a number of startled readers. They weren’t scared about zombies or the undead, just the thought that the premier university in the state wasted time and money compiling such a document.
We did both the university and our readers a disservice when we cut the story short for our print edition.
The brief sent by the Associated Press for our use had three more paragraphs that we didn’t use because the list of briefs would not fit in the space allocated.
Those paragraphs follow:
“Orlando says officials felt the joke ‘didn’t really belong’ on the site, which also included plans for dealing with hurricanes and pandemics.
“The exercise lays out the university’s response to attacks by ‘flesh-eating, apparently life-impaired individuals.’ It notes that a zombie outbreak might include ‘documentation of lots of strange moaning.’
“Orlando says the employee who wrote the gag wasn’t punished.”
End of the intended story.
We did no one any favors by editing out the part that the plan was posted on the site as a spoof.
“What in the world is our university teaching up there,” a reader asked after reading our shortened version. “What are we to think except shock over what is being taught there? If there is another explanation, I certainly would like to hear it.”
The explanation is that we goofed and we apologize. We should not have cut the story the way we did. It already had been edited down.
The five-paragraph AP wire story was a shortened version of a more detailed news story published Oct. 2 in the Gainesville Sun.
Sun reporter Nathan Crabbe quoted university officials as saying the zombie plan was meant to be humorous and to reduce stress in an office that tackles such serious, real-world threats as swine flu and hurricanes.
Crabbe reported that no disciplinary action was taken by the university against the author of the zombie spoof because he had written it on his own time, not on the taxpayers’ dime. The employee — identified as Doug Johnson — told Crabbe he has “insomnia and the plan came to him as he lay awake around 1 a.m.” one morning.
He said he wanted to give his colleagues a laugh.
When word got around that the “gag” plan had been posted on an official university Web site, few UF officials were smiling.