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The Globe and Mail

Public editor: Not a day for a bland headline

There was a letter to the editor in The Globe and Mail Wednesday from a reader who felt the "PQ crushed" main headline from Tuesday's front page "smacked of a tabloid." The reader called it un-Canadian, scornful and narrow-minded.

In my view, it was none of those things. As the smaller headline said, it was a "historic defeat."

The main article by Montreal bureau chief Les Perreaux noted that the Liberal victory was a "stunning rebuke" to the Parti Québécois and incumbent Premier Pauline Marois, who called the election to try to win a majority. Instead, she lost her own seat and the party's vote percentage was lower than it had been since 1970.

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That's 44 years since the party has done so poorly.

That is truly a crushing defeat, as chief correspondent Sophie Cousineau noted. "Sovereignty is not dead. … But for now it's not going anywhere," she wrote.

This was not a day for a bland headline such as "PQ loses election" or "Surprise Liberal win in Quebec." In the Canadian context, this election was closely watched by many who were concerned about a rise in the sovereignty movement, so Quebec provincial elections have an added importance in the federal context. It was historic.

On another front, there was a typographical mistake in a headline on one story spelling Marois as Marios. I've explained to readers who noticed that on election nights you really get to see the miracle of print journalism up close.

The polls close at 8 p.m., you don't really know anything definitive until about 9 (and later with some races) and the paper must be "off the floor" and published for three different parts of the country at 10:45, 11:15 and finally 11:45 p.m.

To publish five pages of news on a breaking event on election night, right up against unyielding deadlines for print and all online properties, you can expect smart coverage, but you really should forgive the odd typo. In fact, in terms of the daily miracle, I would say it's close to a miracle that there weren't a lot more.

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