We apologize -- and we've learned a lesson

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

As Bedford County's daily newspaper and most in-depth news source, the Times-Gazette is held to a high standard -- by others and by ourselves.

When we make mistakes, it is our responsibility to own up to them, to correct them, and to apologize.

Most such mistakes are small ones -- this week, we had a bigger one.

Over the weekend, a Times-Gazette staff member noticed a posting on social media about a man from Bedford County being on the TBI's 10 most wanted list. The social media posting was linked to a genuine Tennessee Bureau of Investigation news release -- genuine, but not current. The staffer noticed the date, September 8, but failed to notice that the news release was actually from September of 2015, a year earlier.

Year-old story

Without properly confirming the information, the Times-Gazette published a story about Michael Sales being on the TBI's most-wanted fugitive list based on this year-old news, which was no longer accurate.

It was our mistake, and we apologize. We hold ourselves to a high standard, which we failed to meet in Sunday's newspaper.

Perhaps this is an instructive lesson for all of us. Our news story was based on the news release, not on the original social media posting, but the way in which Facebook and other social media sites operates allows people to share out-of-date information.

In 2008 -- eight years ago -- the Times-Gazette published a story about a local poultry processing plant, at the request of its labor union, swapping out Labor Day for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The decision was almost immediately reversed, and hasn't been brought back since. However, our original news story on that first decision continues to pop up on social media websites from time to time. Just a month ago, we received several inquiries from people who thought it was a current news story, something the poultry plant was doing or had done this year.

Won't happen again

It's a lesson for all of us. It's not helpful for anyone -- whether a Times-Gazette employee at home on a Saturday afternoon, or any other citizen -- to pass along bad information. If you don't have time to check it out, don't presume to pass it along.

We are sorry that we failed to live up to the high standard that we strive to keep in our service to the people of Bedford County.