Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Mea Culpa

Posted December 15, 2006

Have you ever been driving down the street and you see a sign where a word has been spelled incorrectly? Or, you're reading a menu in a restaurant and you see a misspelled word? It drives you crazy, right? This past week alone I've received notes from activities my children are involved in where pageant was spelled "paegent" and Israel was spelled "Isreal." But what do you normally do? The answer is nothing, because you realize it was a simple mistake and you don't want to embarrass the person. who made it.

However, that's not the case when a mistake is made on television. Due to the joyous efficiency of the internet ,we get to hear about every mistake we make immediately . Not only that, but the critic has the ability to make their comment with veritable anonymity. Imagine what it would be like if strangers on the street continually pointed out your flaws multiple times throughout the day- corrected your grammar, let you know when a hair was out of place and called attention to your slips of the tongue. After awhile it can become disheartening. But at the same time being in the public eye opens us up to public criticism. Some of it revolves around mistakes, other criticism involves people disagreeing with the way we cover a story. My rule of thumb is that as long as you don't use obscenity or personal threats, I will read your letter and respond to you, even if I disagree.

Clearly, we must be held to high standards in television news, but the more news we do, I promise you, the more mistakes we will make. And those mistakes are compounded by the number of people we have re-writing stories and the number of platforms where those stories appear. If a mistake is made, it not only needs to be corrected in the on-air versions of the story, but in the web versions (which may include copy and streamed video). If it airs on WRAL, it will also air on our 24-hour News Channel, and on WRAZ, our sister station. So you can see, how one small mistake can survive in the public's view for what seems like many lifetimes.

So please, do make us aware when we make a mistake. We want to correct them as quickly as we can. But just understand that like you, we are human beings who unintentionally make mistakes on a daily basis. So in advance, let me apologize for the upcoming week... (and for any spelling errors, comma placement issues, or grammatical errors in this blog).


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About this Blog:

WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.