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You have the right to expect perfection

Randy Essex
Randy Essex
EssexCol-GPI-060214

We make mistakes here at the Post Independent.

That’s not a news flash — every news organization does, every human being does, every organization run by human beings does.

We make typos, we drop words, we misspell things and have technical glitches.

Each of these instances embarrasses and pains me more than you’ll ever know. (For the record, the newsroom did not work on the PI’s mistake-pocked 2015 calendar, but that doesn’t make any difference; our customers have every right to expect perfection.)

Sometimes, readers point out our mistakes to us, usually derisively.

“Don’t you have proofreaders?” people wonder.

No, we don’t. I’ve worked at eight daily newspapers since my first college internship in 1979, including two that have won a combined 25 Pulitzer prizes, and none of them had proofreaders. We have copy editors who have over the past couple of decades become designers using ever more complex programs to lay out pages. The industry has shrunk, and these editors have less time than they once did to pore over details.

Again, we make mistakes. Again, one is too many.

We can fix errors online so they aren’t perpetuated, so please call, email or post on Facebook when you see a mistake.

We correct errors of fact in print. Call me at 970-384-9110 or email ressex@postindependent.com if you see a factual error.

Sometimes, some readers might believe something is a factual error because it doesn’t fit their interpretation of the news or their world view. We don’t run corrections in these instances, but we do welcome letters to the editor and guest opinions, including from people who differ with us or think we are bad people.

Beyond letters to the editor, some readers comment harshly on our Facebook page or in emails about what they see as our shortcomings.

It really does come with the territory.

In 2006, shortly after I started work at the Detroit Free Press, I wrote a short essay about having moved to the Motor City and largely given up driving. I lived downtown and often didn’t drive during the week, so my wife and I traded in our two cars for one.

Since it was Detroit, where the third question at a cocktail party is “what do you drive?” I disclosed that the car we bought was a Toyota Prius, knowing that I would rile domestic autoworkers.

I got a death threat on my voice mail, calling me “Osama” and promising me that I would get my head bashed in if I tried to walk in Highland Park, a deeply impoverished town surrounded by Detroit that was the cradle of the U.S. auto industry. Perhaps you’ve seen Highland Park in movies — the arson scene in “Eight Mile” and Clint Eastwood’s house in “Gran Torino” were there.

I digress, but I am used to being called names and worse.

However, some readers commenting on our Facebook page still manage to cross the line.

When Brian Fritze was identified as the man shot to death two weeks ago by Garfield County deputies after a chase, we used public records to find out what we could about him. It’s in the public interest to know the background of someone who leads deputies on a chase and purportedly brandishes a gun when he finally stops and then runs toward traffic on a busy interstate.

Those records checks turned up information about Fritze’s criminal past.

Some people criticized us for publishing some (but only some) of that, with one (now-banned) commenter calling our reporter on the story an obscene name.

Folks, we have a job to do. I can assure you that the reporter took no pleasure in any element of this sad case. He and a photographer were dispatched to drive into a traffic jam, hang out waiting for a busy officer to provide a briefing, and then dig into the background of a troubled person.

We printed the gist of what we were able to learn because it is of public interest to know what happened and who was involved. For the record, you were reading it in record numbers on our website.

Our reporting included reaching out to relatives and friends of Fritze as we sought to learn more about him. Finally, reporter Will Grandbois made contact with his father and got the family’s story.

Do you think any of that was a good time?

Some people in our society have developed a habit of saying things about people online that they would never say to someone’s face. It’s a sorry, classless phenomenon.

I took an ear blistering myself in a phone call about the fact that the editorial on the shooting incident was unsigned.

For those who don’t know, when a piece on the opinion page is labeled “Our View,” it is the opinion of the Post Independent as a community organization. The position is decided by the publisher and editor with input from others on staff or in the community whose perspective we value. As the editor, I ordinarily do the writing.

To speak for an institution that has been a voice in this great community for 123 years is an honor. I’ll take the criticism that comes with the turf.

But try to show a modicum of class — don’t call my reporters names.

Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.


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