Mistakes were made; we can do better

Published 10:30 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

There are three words that every journalist fears hearing.

“This is wrong.”

For those of us who make a living presenting the news, this is both an acknowledgment of a mistake, as well as a judgment on our ability to do the job.

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This might seem hyperbolic, but is true. While mistakes might not hold the weight of those made in other professions, this does nothing to lessen the impact.

This is said so that you, the reader, can understand where we are coming from when we say, we are sorry for the grievous mistakes in our recent election coverage.

For those unsure what I am referring to, or have not grasped the severity of this situation, let me explain.

This past Tuesday the Valley Times-News staff covered the Alabama primary elections, which featured 30 separate races. During the night, our reporters worked to keep readers updated on how these races were shaping up. By 11 p.m. we had the final Chambers County numbers for each race.

The goal from there was to take that data and write stories for the Wednesday newspaper. This is where we made our first series of mistakes. We wrote stories, five in particular, that dealt with district and state races that did not take into account the results from other counties outside of Chambers County. As such, we wrote that primary races were won by individuals who did not win. This was an egregious error. We called the Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Republican primary for Gerald Dial, when in fact no Republican gained over 50 percent of the vote. Dial and Rick Pate gained the most votes that night and will face each other in a runoff in July.

The race for the State Senate District 13 race was called for Randy Price. In actuality, Price will face fellow Republican Mike Sparks during the July runoff.

We wrote a story about the Associated Justice of the Supreme Court, Place 1 race in such a way that it appeared that Debra Jones had won the race outright. While Jones did carry Chambers County, she lost across the district to Brad Mendheim and Sarah Hicks-Stewart, who will face each other in the runoff.

In the race for State Board of Education, District 2 we reported that Tracie West would face John Taylor in a runoff. While West is in a runoff, it is with Melanie Hill, not Taylor.

Lastly, in the Public Service Commission race, Place 1, we reported Jim Bonner had gained the most votes over Jeremy Oden and the status of the race was now in the hands of the state GOP. While Bonner did gain the most votes in Chambers County, he did not across all counties in the race. Oden instead carried the race by more than 50 percent.

Compounding on this, an editorial was published Thursday calling on the state GOP to consider Bonner’s appeal in light of him gaining the most votes in the race, which he did not.

There is much to unpack from this admission. It is embarrassing and anger-inducing and it means we have lost trust of the public.

No media outlet can operate without some level of trust. In an age where people scream “Fake News” at every perceived inaccuracy, having numerous legitimate mistakes is devastating.

With all that said, we acknowledge we failed to live up to our obligations in an unacceptable fashion. Several factors on our end led to this, including a lack of proper planning, editing and critical thinking. While we cannot go back in time, we can ask for forgiveness and another chance.

No one can claim perfection, but we at The Valley Times-News strive every day to present accurate and up-to-date information. In this instance, we did not. Please allow us the chance to earn back your trust. We intend to do so.