What do you do when you have been publicly embarrassed? It happened to me last night at a Town Council meeting. I work as a reporter covering municipal politics, and in doing so, I have to attend their regular meetings. I make notes furiously and hopefully accurately.
I like to be accurate in what I report. And since I have covered town council meetings for years I have a lot of knowledge on how things work. I know that when someone asks Council to lower a speed limit, they refer it to the Police Board for a recommendation before making a decision. I know this. Yet, I wrote an article stating that Council had approved the lowering of the speed limit without this additional step. And (to add insult to injury) I said that the decision was unanimous.
When I wrote up the story, I remember thinking to myself that it was odd that they did not follow the usual procedure and send it to the Police Board first before approving. But, instead of checking to make sure that my notes were correct, I wrote it up, even though I was second guessing myself.
Now, the paper I work for is not a national or even city paper. It is a small town weekly—but none-the-less, I think it is a pretty good paper. We try to cover community events and let the people know what is happening in the municipality. I feel that writing up council news is sort of my way of contributing to the community.
Last night a Councillor pointed out that the paper had made an error in the article about the speed limit. He did not come to me quietly and tell me about the mistake—he announced it in front of Council and the audience of people who were attending because there was something on the Council Agenda that they were interested in.
I would be the first one to admit I do not take criticism well. I learn from it never-the-less. But I thought that the Councillor was particularly ungenerous in his comments. And it stung all the more because I was guilty of making a mistake. A mistake I had not bothered to correct, even though I had questioned it.
I probably deserved a little comeuppance, and the fact that I should have made a phone call to check my facts was undeniable. But why did the Councillor feel he had to embarrass me? I try to portray Council in a fair fashion as a reporter is charged to do. The mistake is not earth shattering. It can be easily remedied. That is not the point. The point is that it felt like someone was trying to make himself look good at the expense of another.
Am I just being a little too sensitive? Yes, I guess I am. But I would never do to another what was done to me last night.
What do you think?