Now, let’s get this on the table. We make mistakes at the Argus Leader. We take accuracy seriously and I’m not about to make excuses for when we don’t live up to that expectation. I’m sure everybody can point out our failings. But I think the difference is that we own up to them, we correct them, we try to get it right.
That’s something that TV just doesn’t do. I’m not sure why. I don’t understand it. I can’t explain it.
But the series of events that led to FOX news bringing the full brunt of a particularly uninformed segment of its viewership down upon the members of the school board — based on a misunderstanding of the actual facts, based on reporting done by a local station, which didn’t have a person present at the proceedings upon which the report was based on — is an apt illustration of the chaos that passes for public discourse in our era.
It’s a cautionary tale, to be sure, for those of us who work in media in all forms. But it should be particularly sobering for my friends in the broadcast arts. The things we do matter, they affect people’s lives in ways we don’t always understand on our end.
One of the most difficult things we do is admit we are wrong, to leave the hubris of local celebrity and notoriety at the door and throw ourselves squarely on the public sword.
But it makes us better. Not just as journalists, but as people.
The fact is, that I don’t know all the facts that led to the stories being published by the local stations. I’m led to believe by people involved that all the stations got it wrong as well but corrected it when informed of the error.
But in this case I know the outcome, which is threatening phone calls to school board members who, for any perceived shortcoming from a policy standpoint, are unpaid volunteers trying to make their world a better place.
They don’t deserve this.
A public apology might help.
What do you think? Don’t worry, you won’t offend me.