The North County Times has fired an editor who inserted a joke into an Associated Press brief that ended up running in the newspaper.

The editor, Scott Reeder, changed the wording of a story about a new Los Angeles law that requires pet owners to spay and neuter their pets.

The original version said this:

“We will, sooner rather than later, become a no-kill city and this is the greatest step in that direction,” Councilman Tony Cardenas, who co-authored the bill, said as he held a kitten at a City Hall news conference.

The edited version that made it into print Wednesday (emphasis added) said:

“We will, sooner rather than later, become a no-kill city and this is the greatest step in that direction,” Councilman Tony Cardenas, who co-authored the bill, said as he strangled a kitten at a City Hall news conference.

Editor Kent Davy called the prank a “terrible mistake” in a front-page correction today, and said a second editor had been suspended for not catching the slipup.

Davy wrote:

After conducting an internal investigation, I believe that our editors were not being malicious, furthering some political agenda, or expressing ill will toward Cardenas or anyone else. Instead, I have concluded that our mistake flowed from a deeply misguided joke that made its way into print.

Still, there is nothing more important than running a newspaper that our readers can trust. We have fired the editor who initiated the unfortunate “joke.” And we have suspended a second editor who failed to keep the error out of print. Further, we will adopt improved quality control measures and training to prevent similar mistakes.

ROB DAVIS

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