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.
- Sam Pollak
THIS WEEK'S POLL
Using time off in the worst way possible
"You don't mean it," I pleaded. "You simply can't mean it!"
Terror lives on, and there's no end in sight
The horrific scenes out of Boston on Monday will be hard, if not impossible, to forget, unless, of course, it happens again ... and again ... and again.
Remembering the glory of their times
So, last Sunday, instead of writing The Great American Novel like I ought to be, I'm idly looking in my usual dumb fashion at a television screen.
Column on guns led to a barrage of (mostly) jeers
You know, I'm beginning to suspect that perhaps there was not universal agreement regarding what I authored in this space three weeks ago.
- Saturday, February 16, 2013
No one is coming to take your guns
I have some disappointing news for some of the more-virulent foes of sane gun-control legislation.
- Saturday, January 26, 2013
I'm fit to be tied because I can't find anything that fits
"Did you ever get the feeling," once asked sad-faced comedian George Gobel, "that the world was a tuxedo … and you were a pair of brown shoes?"
- Saturday, January 5, 2013
Seeing errors of our ways is important
It has become an annual custom to devote my first column of the year to informing our readers about how badly we screwed up over the previous 12 months.
- Saturday, December 15, 2012
Celebrate 2012 with the annual 'Sammy Awards'
Before you criticize someone -- goes this oft-quoted advice -- you should walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you'll be a mile away from him when you say it … and you'll have his shoes.
- Saturday, November 24, 2012
Gazan children and Israel suffer for Hamas folly
On Nov. 21, 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was on his historic and courageous visit to Israel that led to a peace agreement that still exists.
- Saturday, November 3, 2012
I'm worrying about what's to become of me after Nov. 6
There’s just no getting around it.
- Saturday, October 13, 2012
No Southern comfort from some in GOP
Most politicians make a gaffe now and again, with Vice President Joe Biden providing more than his share, but what I find fascinating are the increasingly frequent, intellect-defying, science-ignoring statements from politicians with one thing in common.
- Saturday, September 22, 2012
Critics prefer leaving media in pieces, not peace
Given the current epidemic of citizens great and small smacking the news media about the head and shoulders repeatedly and with great vigor, it can’t help but hurt the feelings of a sensitive and fragile soul … such as yours truly.
- Saturday, September 1, 2012
What’s in a name? The difference between a hero and a fraud
- Saturday, August 11, 2012
Rumors of papers' death have been greatly exaggerated
On the bulletin board in my office is this cartoon drawn in 2009 by the talented Lisa Benson of the Washington Post Writers Group.
- Saturday, July 21, 2012
I wonder how it would feel to have all that money
- Saturday, June 30, 2012
Why do women stand by such awful men?
Most men _ and you know who you are _ are not to be trusted.
- Saturday, June 9, 2012
For fatalistic job-seekers, I hear al-Qaida is hiring
NEWS ITEM: Abu Yahya al-Libi, second-in-command of al-Qaida's terror network, was killed last month in Pakistan by a CIA Predator drone attack, U.S. intelligence officials confirmed Tuesday.
- Saturday, May 19, 2012
I'm happy with our kids to a certain degree
It was several years ago, and I was in the kitchen, telling my eldest daughter and my then-teenaged son about the person who was taking over as publisher at The Daily Star.
- Saturday, April 28, 2012
I get by with a little help from my 'friends'
They are my precious friends, although I've met only a couple of them. They are always there -- unlike most of my other friends -- whenever I want them ... or need them. I just have to open a book, and there they are.
- THIS WEEK'S POLL