From the Editor’s Desk: On accuracy

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Social media gives a voice to the masses, allowing us to connect in new ways and share information like never before.

But it also can serve as a platform to discredit and mock those we disagree with, a place for bullying, and a source of information that amounts to little more than rumor, or, at the very least, lacks context.

Reporters and “the media” at large are often favorite targets, as keyboard bandits with agendas work to shoot the messenger. It happens on the national level daily, with charges of “fake news,” putting doubt in people’s minds about media sources once considered highly reputable.

And there are few people easier to pick apart than those who continually put their work on display for all to see, and attempt to accurately portray controversial topics with facts; some small, and others that make precise word choice crucial.

Recently, I’ve found myself becoming a target on one particular website, and the relative newness of this news endeavor means it’s something I have to address.

I am not perfect. In my eight years of reporting news in the Blackstone Valley, it’s true I have made mistakes. It’s somewhat inevitable that among the many facts published every week on this website, occasionally I may fail at the needed precision.

Recently, I identified someone at a meeting as a “resident,” without checking the address on his identification, a possible error that led one commentator to order me to “check my facts.” In hindsight, “attendee,” would indeed have been a better word choice.

Another commentator who has been vocally critical of the Pascoag Fire District over the past several months announced that I “hadn’t been back” to the district’s monthly meeting, saying I’m guilty of “selective reporting.” It’s true: I haven’t. But then, six months ago, Burrillville was something of a news dead zone. Without the stories published here, little would be known about that district’s ongoing issues. And inevitably, in a town with four fire districts, a single reporter on a mission may still miss a meeting or two.

Choosing “what to leave in, what to leave out,” in the words of Bob Seger, makes the news business selective by its nature.

Another social media critic ordered me to “proof read,” because on the first version of my 827 word story on the Nasonville Fire District meeting this week, I accidentally wrote “Mapleville” on the sixth reference. He’s right – the error slipped by.

Yet another commentator said I made an error two years ago while reporting for The Valley Breeze.

While I have no means of verifying the claim, I believe her. In my training as a journalist, I’ve learned that errors do happen to everyone. It’s how you handle them that gives a publication substance and credibility, something I hope to earn in the eyes of all of my readers. Be honest and straightforward, and when it’s needed, issue a correction. It’s a policy I intend to stick to.

In short, I want to assure readers: I always aim to get my facts 100 percent right, but I know it won’t always happen. When I’m wrong, I want to hear about it, so please, keep the comments coming.

It’s been an honor to report news in Burrillville over the past several months. The subscribers, the fans and friends I’m making, and the “thank you,” notes that come in on a weekly basis make it worth it.

To the critics, by all means, keep me in check, but please, know that I’m doing my best.

And I have no intention of stopping.

Your founder and publisher,

Sandy Seoane