Monday, February 12, 2007

When we get it wrong

Nobody said it was going to be easy.

That's true. Nobody said this was an easy job. In fact, it's pretty tough sometimes.

Reporting, writing, editing and publishing a community newspaper — they all present many challenges, each step of the way.

I don't mind people carrying on and calling me names for expressing my opinion in an editorial or in a column on the op-ed page. I expect it. Especially when I write about a subject as sensitive as the war. I've developed thick skin over the years. I can take it.

Sometimes, reporters make mistakes. Hey, we're only human. But when reporters for community newspapers make errors, it affects our neighbors — or people we do business with, or acquaintances, or friends. No matter what, it's tough. Unlike reporters at a huge daily, working out of some distant office, we live and work in the community we write about.

When we err, we print corrections. We print them on the inside front cover, page 2. But they're never enough to satisfy the person who was affected by something we got wrong. I realize that, but there's not much else I can do.

I'm dwelling on this tonight because we made a mistake in this week's police report in the Suffolk Times. The reporter got her "vehicle 1" and "vehicle 2" mixed up as she wrote up the report of an accident involving a school bus on Route 48 last week. We reported that the bus struck the other vehicle. In fact, acccording to the police report, it was the other way around. The other vehicle struck the bus, the report said.

That may make it seem that the driver of the school bus was at fault, and that's how she took it. To say she was unhappy when she showed up at our office Thursday morning would be an understatement along the lines of saying The Beatles were "popular." She tore me a new one, and there was no placating her.

The driver's dispatcher called me, too — at about 8 am Thursday morning. In an email subsequent to our conversation, she said that the people of Southold view The Suffolk Times "as law." That got me thinking even harder about the awesome responsibility we have. We take our responsibility seriously, all the time. There is a certain amount of power in what we do. We know we must never abuse it, or abuse the trust of the people who rely on our papers each week to understand what's going on in their communities.

Everyone at all of our publications works really hard and cares very deeply about what we do and the communities we cover. Accuracy and fairness are our top priorities. But, yes, sometimes we make mistakes. And when we do, it hurts — and we're sorry. This is one of those times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for the kind words about volunteers. i have passed the editorial along to all members of our dept & our southampton village trustee liason, mr paul robinson. he would possibly like to quote your encouraging words with credit in the future.
mitchell hagler, secretary
southampton village volunteer ambulance