Accuracy in the media, May 17, 2005

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2005

&uot;I really liked the treatment you gave my Scout story,&uot; the email from sports editor Jason Norman at 10 Monday night started.

I knew what was coming next. I desked the paper on Monday. Desking, is the term we use for the person in charge in of assembling the paper and sending it to the printer. On a small paper like ours, it entails editing copy, toning photographs, designing and assembling pages and writing headlines.

I generally do it about one night a week, partly because I like to keep my hand in it in case of an emergency – it’s easy to fall out of practice – but mostly because our stupid lawyers can’t figure out a way to make everyone here work sox days a week without paying them overtime.

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Anyway, I had wrapped things up and left around 8:15.

Admittedly I rushed through the layout because I had to collect the quarters from some of our racks in northern Suffolk on my way home. I couldn’t do it in the morning because I had a United Way event I had to attend. So I was a little nervous about the paper.

Anyway, back to Norman’s email…

&uot;But the story on the flex building says the groundbreaking is Wednesday, as does the email and the headline says its today (Tuesday).

I had screwed up the headline. Norman had come back to the office to update the Web page and it was too late to do anything about my error.

I told Norman he was correct that I had made a mistake and asked that he please correct it for the Web.

I’m not sure how I made the error. I read the story. However, I had it in my Outlook calendar as a Tuesday event and it had been throwing up reminders to me all day. I think Tuesday just got ingrained in my subconscious.

I had been watching, reading and listening to a lot of news reports Monday about Newsweek having to retract the story about U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrating the Qur’an – the story that sparked rioting and killings in Afghanistan that week. Over and over I heard people like the pompous eggheads on NPR and the obnoxious hatemongering buffoons on AM talk radio discussing the event, describing it variously as indicative of the problem with the mainstream media to a downright act of sedition in a time of war.

While I’m embarrassed by my headline error in today’s paper, I was not overly upset about it.

Normally I beat myself up pretty badly over such things, but it seemed small in comparison to what Newsweek had done. At least I didn’t spark any riots or get anyone killed. About the worst that can come of it is someone will show up for a ground breaking or ribbon cutting or whatever it was at the wrong time.

If you happen to go out to the industrial park today and nobody’s there, please don’t kill anyone. It was an honest mistake.