About a year ago, NBC News anchor Megyn Kelly delivered her Florida Forum address at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Jacksonville, and one of her messages particularly resonated with me.
When deciding which news to trust, the journalist’s suggestion to the crowd was straightforward: seek out sources that demonstrate humility and honesty, and admit their mistakes.
One year later, it’s my turn to do just that, and take responsibility for an error I recently made in my reporting.
On Jan. 11, I covered a joint luncheon for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Beaches Division and the Ponte Vedra Beach Division of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. A number of local government officials addressed the luncheon, including St. Johns County (SJC) Administrator Michael Wanchick.
The county administrator delivered a sobering address on SJC’s challenging financial state, and also remarked that the single most significant challenge for local government is lack of community engagement.
“Research shows that 7 percent of your population on average pays attention to local government, and that’s unfortunate because all of us in public service have to make very difficult decisions that affect the quality of your life,” said Wanchick. “When you don’t tell us clearly and precisely what it is you want local government to deliver and how you want us to pay for it, it puts elected officials in the position of guessing what you want.”
In my story published Jan. 18, I paraphrased this quote, which comes straight from an audio recording of the address, and wrote the following: Wanchick said it’s more important than ever for residents to become involved with their local government. He said lack of community engagement is the most significant challenge for local government, and that needs to change so that elected officials like him are not left in a position to guess about issues that affect residents’ quality of life.
My mistake? Mr. Wanchick is not an elected official; he was hired by the Board of County Commissioners. I got it wrong, and I will learn from it.
So, here is what I’ve done. I’ve issued a correction to the online version of the article, as seen on pontevedrarecorder.com. In addition, I’m writing this message/correction to all of you, and I plan to speak with Mr. Wanchick and the county commissioners to personally apologize for the misrepresentation. I hope, in doing so, I demonstrate the humility and honesty that Megyn Kelly instilled in me one year ago.
Reporting the news, accurately, in the Ponte Vedra and Beaches communities is of the utmost importance to us at the Recorder. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously and will continue to take seriously moving forward.
But, here’s the deal: Sometimes, we’re not going to get everything right, regardless of how hard we try. Although I don’t take any pleasure in admitting that, it’s the nature of the industry, which is characterized by high pressure, looming deadlines and now, the increasingly difficult challenge to do more with less.
With that being said, I want to use my mistake as an opportunity to make a request of you, the readers. If you read something in a Recorder story that you believe is incorrect or something that you may not agree with, please let us know, or please send me a letter to the editor. We want to create a culture in which this dialogue is a vital part of our newspaper, because we are ultimately here to serve you.
Thank you for reading, for understanding and for your continued support.