With Corrections Like These, Who Needs Ignorance and Malice?


Newspaper Delivery System
circa 20th Century

My old Ledger colleague Tom Palmer has a bit of a fraught history with corrections. Mostly, he hates to acknowledge it when he screws things up. See here and here.

But his latest snafu may be the strangest.

It requires a moment of forensic analysis. At a hearing last month about a controversial sand mine, Tom quoted County Commissioner Todd Dantzler as saying “We’ve cut the best deal we can” with the developer. In actual fact, Dantzler said, “You cut the best deal you can” with the developer. He was referring to the residents, not the county commissioners.

I don’t know anything about this specific issue, but can we all stipulate that pronouns are sort of important in quotes? They are, you know, the stand-ins for nouns, which say who or what does a thing. It’s important to be clear about the subjects of news stories.

Confronted with that misplaced “we,” angry readers apparently berated Dantzler with an ongoing rain of complaint about the underhanded deal he and his commission cohorts struck with the evil developer. Except they didn’t.

This has gone on for a couple of weeks, it seems. But the first Ledger readers heard about came Thursday evening, when The Ledger published Tom’s blog post called “Mining and Malice in Davenport,” which attacked people who used his screwed up quote in bad faith. Really.

Some of the comments came from people who were at the hearing or were watching it on TV and know exactly what was said and the context, but misinterpreted it to conclude some kind of under the table deal occurred.

It’s hard to tell whether their conclusion was based on ignorance or malice, but I know from decades in this business and covering hundreds of zoning hearings that people often simply disagree and that people sometimes deliberately misinterpret what others say to fit a script. I’ve had it happen to me. It’s annoying and intellectually dishonest.

Yes, the people who read and responded angrily to Tom’s screwed-up quote are intellectually dishonest and annoying because they should have known, having seen the meeting, that Tom, who also saw the meeting, screwed up his representation of it. Tom, you are paid to keep it straight, and you didn’t. Why would you expect people watching on TV to keep a better mental account than you?

Anyway, I believe this is all the definition of chutzpah.

Now, I could see if Tom’s post was a follow-up piece to a real correction. It would be kinda lame and self-serving, but not ridiculous. However, The Ledger didn’t publish a formal correction until three hours after Tom’s “malice” post. It ran in the printed paper the next day. I would love to know the backstory to that. Anybody who knows, drop me a line if you can.

And I’d also like to ask Todd Dantzler how long he’d been asking for a correction. I’m curious. Email me at townsend@lakelandlocal.com, if you get a chance.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Chuck Welch for Lakeland Local