Sometimes, we screw up.
Sure, everybody does, but not as obviously
as a newspaper.
What makes me proud, despite our indisputable imperfection, is that I don’t know any other industry that so publicly acknowledges its foibles and tries to correct its mistakes.
The press is the only profession expressly protected in the Constitution. But with that comes a tremendous responsibility. It has become my custom to devote one of my first columns each year to acknowledging the miscues of the previous 12 months.
And a fine custom it is, too.
In 2008, The Daily Star ran 174 corrections, an eerily similar number to the 176 we published in 2007. To give a bit of perspective, we ran 202 in 2006, and 155 the previous year.
Most by far have been our fault, with the rest caused by inaccurate information in interviews or media releases.
And, as I acknowledge each year, these are only the mistakes we know about. There is no question that we made many more that weren’t brought to our attention.
In comparison with some past years in which some of our errors were painfully embarrassing, humorous or almost inexplicable, 2008’s corrections were fairly mundane.
Primarily, we misspelled some names, got some dates for events wrong, left out some relevant information and did some faulty math when dealing with statistics. While these are all things that can drive editors to drink, they were all honest mistakes and not the result of any preconceived prejudice or animus.
I know there are folks who will never believe that, and they are privileged to believe what they want.
But here’s the most compelling argument I can employ to make my point.
There’s a plethora of 24-hour cable networks offering news, sports, weather, business and all sorts of other things previous generations received from newspapers and in half-hour telecasts from CBS, NBC and ABC.
The Internet offers virtually unlimited information about everything, including what’s in every major newspaper in the country.
What’s left for newspapers?
Well, actually lots of things, not the least of which is the material to wrap fish and train puppies. But our most precious asset _ along with our primacy in covering local news _ is our credibility.
In an era in which anyone with a computer and an opinion can be his own Internet media outlet, newspapers are still rightfully looked upon as having the best-trained journalists and those most guided by ethics.
If we lose that honor, we lose everything. We may lose almost everything, anyway. While the big-city metros would seem to be more vulnerable than community papers such as the one you’re reading now, it’s no secret that newspapers, as a whole, are in deep trouble.
If you’re looking at this column on a computer, you didn’t pay to read it, and that’s part of why times are so tough. A whole generation has grown up unwilling to pay for news. Combine that with the Internet’s ability to specialize and target individual needs of consumers, and it’s easy to see why many newspapers have lost advertisers.
Because this is a column about errors, it bears noting that newspapers’ biggest mistakes are being conducted in corporate offices all over America.
Like many other businesses taken over by those whose vision of the future is obscured by quarterly spreadsheets, a lot of newspaper companies have fallen into the trap of thinking that laying off employees can clear the path to success.
Some of the most skilled fiction writing I’ve ever read are recent memos and columns by editors I respect who have had to wince and tell their employees and readers that staff reductions will actually allow their newsrooms to be more efficient. Newspaper people tend to be a bit emotional about all this turmoil. Along with the hand-wringing and self-flagellation so cherished by those in my profession, is this worry.
One day, we’re going to get this all worked out. We’re going to find ways to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Internet, including video, podcasts and forms of communication we don’t even know about yet, and make it all extremely profitable.
The worry is that if the cuts keep coming, there might not be anything worthwhile left to salvage.
And that would be the worst newspaper error of all time.
Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar. com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.
Sometimes, we screw up.
Sure, everybody does, but not as obviously
as a newspaper.
- Big Chuck D'Imperio
My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital
Ask any hospital administrators if they've ever heard of a closed hospital in New York state that has ever been re-opened. They will say, "Impossible." In a half century of going through records you can't find any.Continued ...
- Catching a whiff of 'Vermont Vapor'
- Selections from the virtual mailbag
- Recalling days of 'Doughnut King'
- Opera great's visit still a thrilling memory
- My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital
- Cary Brunswick
We've become our own worst enemies
The past month has been marked by a seeming unprecedented number of man-made tragedies, as distinct from those caused by violent outbursts of the natural world, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.Continued ...
- Plenty of blame to go around for Bangladesh horror
- Obama is going against his word on Social Security
- Reflecting on a Florida trip
- Those magnificent spies in their flying machines
- We've become our own worst enemies
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
Records seizure is an insult to free press
Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.Continued ...
- The evangelical view of same-sex marriage
- Manor's fate will be Otsego board's legacy
- A closer look at our economy - Part II
- Use fracking to fill budget gaps
- Records seizure is an insult to free press
- Lisa Miller
A view from above
Fire towers in the Catskill Mountains have always been destination points, built to capture some of the region’s best views. These sentinel stations served an important role for the earliest possible sightings of forest fires in the remote mountain ranges. But the fire towers and those who manned them fulfilled a multitude of other roles as well.Continued ...
- Being a parent is a constant learning process
- Healthy doesn't have to mean expensive
- A family era ends with close of Potter series
- Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
- A view from above
- Mark Simonson
Sunday movies in Oneonta finally shown in 1934
You know an issue is divisive when a vote to resolve it is quite close. In Oneonta during the early 1930s there were probably plenty of discussions or arguments at the family dinner table or sermons from the pulpits on Sunday mornings, regarding whether or should be able to see a movie in Oneonta on Sunday.Continued ...
- Politics, fitness and landmarks dominated local news in May 1968
- Local people sought income in many ways in 1933
- Local windstorm in 1983 caused tense moments
- Disaster, expansions put people to work in May 1913
- Sunday movies in Oneonta finally shown in 1934
- Rick Brockway
Kids have sparkle in their eyes
When I was in my teens, old Bill Naatz told me about a stream north of Lake George where a man had panned out enough gold to make his wife a wedding band. It was all rumors, but to his grandson and myself, it sounded like the makings of a great adventure.
- People make the outdoors even better
- Turkey season has ups and downs
- Spring air isn't always the freshest
- Adriondacks keep growing and growing
- Kids have sparkle in their eyes
- Sam Pollak
Using time off in the worst way possible
"You don't mean it," I pleaded. "You simply can't mean it!"Continued ...
- Terror lives on, and there's no end in sight
- Remembering the glory of their times
- Column on guns led to a barrage of (mostly) jeers
- No one is coming to take your guns
- Using time off in the worst way possible
- William Masters
Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues
As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.
- Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.
Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity
Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.
Romney shows little regard for common man
The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.
Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists
The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.
- Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues