Friday, January 9, 2015

Stupid Newspaper "Proof Readers" Slime Ky. Sheriff For No Good Reason

To be clear, Hardin County, Kentucky
Sheriff John Ward thinks people who go into
law enforcement do so because they want
to serve their community, not because
they want to shoot minorities. Idiots at
a Kentucky newspaper changed a
story to smear his reputation, apparenty  
The Elizabethtown, Kentucky News-Enterprise newspaper had a bombshell in the third paragraph of a story concerning law enforcement in Hardin County, Kentucky.

It quoted Hardin County Sheriff John Ward as saying, "Those who go into law enforcement typically do it because they have a desire to shoot minorities."

Given the recent tension involving shootings, and non-prosecutions of white police officers who have shot and killed unarmed black men recently, this was scary. There's already enough tension out there. This would make it worse.

Is Sheriff Ward a horrible racist?

Um, no. Not at all.

Here's the problem. Sheriff Ward never said such a thing.

It turns out when reporter Anna Taylor submitted her article to editors, she had accurately quoted Sheriff Ward as saying, "Those who go into law enforcement typically do it because they have a desire to serve the community."

Not exactly controversial, but hey, it was accurate. That's what we want!

According to the Washington Post and numerous other media outlets, it turns out some so-called proof readers decided to pull a prank and change the quote to that incendiary one about shooting minorities.

Yeah, a real knee slapper.

This had to be the most fire-able offense possible, and editors at the Kentucky News-Enterprise quickly fired two "proof readers." The editors did not elaborate on how the paraphrased quote turned into that false bombshell.

According to media watcher Jim Romenesko:

"Two copy desk staffers - 23 and 32 years old - have been fired, I'm told. One wrote the 'shoot minorities' line on the page proof as a joke and the second - in charge of the front page - put it in the story. One worked at the paper for about six years, the other less than a year."

It looks like one put it in as a joke, and the other unquestioningly went with it, without thinking, "Did the sheriff really say that?"

The article, headlined "Law Enforcement To Be Honored For Service" is still up on the paper's Web site, but it has been corrected to reflect reality, and includes an apology for the original error.

I bet News-Enterprise editor Ben Sheroan is pissed. Wicked pissed. And I don't blame him. How could anybody who works for a newspaper do such a thing, even if they intended, but failed, to erase the stupidity? Of course, maybe at least one of these "proof readers" really intended to get this in the paper, just to stir the pot, as it were.

Sheroan wrote a correction and retraction that read in part:

"Many of Thursday's upset callers asked the same question. 'Doesn't anyone proof your newspaper?'

Well, surprisingly, that's where the error took place. A function and process designed to rid the news pages of error instead added a terrible one that altered the reporter's original sentence. No reasonable excuse can exist."

Again, what were these so called proof readers thinking?

Look at the damage they caused.

First of all, they at least attempted to damage Sheriff Ward's reputation and there's no evidence he deserved it. He could sue for libel, but so far he's said he probably won't. But still. If he's a good cop, let's celebrate him. Patting the good cops on the back and highlighting their good work makes it that much harder for the bad cops to run rampant.

Then there's the issue of damaging the credibility of the whole movement to reform police departments, or at least police officers, who do unfairly target minorities. Those who are resisting reforms would use this as an example for their arguments that police are unfairly targeted by critics.

So let's wreck the reform movement to improve police racial rules. Like I said, these "proof readers" are incredibly awful.

And what of reporter Anna Taylor? She's clearly blameless, but her byline was on that article. Journalists live and die by their reputations for accuracy and fairness, and this might have terribly damaged her credibility.

Will everyone understand that Taylor did her job well and responsibly, and actually wrote an accurate, professional article? We can only hope so.

I almost wish they publicly named these two awful "proof readers" who used to work for the News Enterprise. They deserve to be totally shamed.

I'm glad I never met anybody like these "proof readers" in my three decades in journalism.

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