Editors’ note: For a time now, we’ve given the local daily paper a break from being discussed in our pages. We wanted to give the new staffers a chance to find their footing here locally – a ‘honeymoon’ or ‘grace’ period.
That time has now lapsed. As they say – “Game on.”
Clarification: (noun) “the action of making a statement or situation less confused and more comprehensible.”
Simple definition, right? A “clarification” should help untangle a strange situation, should be a beam of light in a surrounding darkness.
Apparently the definition is not so simple these days.
Now, “clarification” can be twisted to mean “We might have messed up bad enough to warrant having an honest ‘correction’ but instead we’ll pray the readers don’t notice if we sweep it under the metaphorical rug with a vaguely different-sounding noun.”
A much less lucid definition, we agree, but this is what that word seems to mean to our friends at the local daily paper – evidenced by the handling of several articles involving last week’s NRA fundraising banquet.
In Thursday’s edition, the daily ran an article titled “Rogers talks guns, health care at NRA meeting.”
If you read the article, you would have believed that Congressman Mike Rogers was the guest speaker at last week’s fundraising event for the NRA, complete with quotes from the talk that Rogers gave the audience at the Event Center in downtown Opelika that evening.
Except … the Hon. Mike Rogers wasn’t the guest speaker that evening. That honor belonged to retired Lt. Gen. Ron Burgess, an Opelika native and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Congressman Rogers did come by the event briefly, but there was never any chance that he would speak, a fact the reporter would have known if he had bothered to attend himself, or even to talk with some of the event’s organizers.
Friday’s edition of the daily attempted to “clarify” some of the errors in the previous day’s story – interviewing Burgess two days after the fact for some words on the topics he discussed at the Tuesday event.
The article ends with our previously mentioned friend, the clarification – wherein it is explained the quotes attributed to Congressman Rogers were actually lifted from an interview at the GE plant in Auburn and not the NRA meeting the daily’s managing editor neglected to attend before reporting on it.
While we are pleased to see the daily start to fill their pages with more local content instead of its usual AP filler material, we’d like to remind the daily: actually attending events you report on might help inform a story.
This was not a mistake that needed “clarifying.”
The situation was not confused and in need of explanation.
The story was completely unreal – and a true “correction” was not only warranted, but necessary.
The needed correction was “Hey folks, we really messed up. We reported on something that didn’t happen, and then we made it worse by pretending it was an honest mistake. We’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Instead, the daily seems to think it has a license to print that which is not true and then, when caught in the lie, tell its readers it was someone else’s mistake.
Makes you wonder what else it prints that isn’t true.