The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 6th

Credibility and corrections

I hesitated to publish the column to your left for fear of making a mountain out of a molehill. After all, I deal with calls for corrections on a daily basis.

What I realize, however, is that most of you do not, and the process of handling these situations deserves transparency. And because the credibility I so fiercely fight for is on the line, I don’t want objections to Friday’s article about the Morehead-Cain Foundation to go unaddressed.

I do my best to take all potential corrections seriously, but not every angry call to the newsroom means we made a mistake. And even when we do, a single mistake shouldn’t prevent people from speaking to The Daily Tar Heel again. And I hope it wouldn’t deter them from reading the paper, whose staff of student writers changes and learns constantly.

When a source feels they’ve been misrepresented, a back-and-forth between the editor and the source is to be expected as we try to get to the crux of the issue. At first, we inevitably see things differently. But my hope is to understand.

With Izaak Earnhardt, a familiar scenario unfolded. After conversations with him and with the reporter and desk editor who worked on the story, I found that while the quote used was accurate, it was juxtaposed with other facts in a way that misrepresented Earnhardt’s point. I also learned of a misunderstanding that led to an incorrect assumption, which you’ll see corrected on page 2.

Earnhardt, my staff and I worked together to correct the problem. I marked another check in my book of things I’ve learned about newspapering this year.

Not every one of these conversations will result in a correction. I’ve been quoted in a newspaper before, and I wasn’t happy about the way I said what I said. But I said it, and it was the truth.

I don’t expect to make everyone happy. Sometimes, what we read ourselves saying in print can throw us for a loop, even if the words are correct.

But in any case in which the DTH quotes a source out of context, as this one was, it deserves to be addressed and corrected.

It’s important to understand and reflect on the impact our words have, both on our subjects and on our readers — who are often one and the same.

If you feel something’s been done in error, please call me. It’s my responsibility to work with you to set the record straight. Even if we don’t always agree, I hope the truth will be the end result.

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