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News and quick-hit commentary from around mid-Michigan ... from the Morning Sun.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How a mistake happens

I've made my share of goofs in print, and had to run corrections. It's an occupational hazard - none of us were born in mangers nor were we dropped from the planet Krypton to save the Earth.
But I unilaterally elected the wrong person village president in Shepherd. The voters set me straight on that.
Here's what happened: Because Isabella County can't post running election totals on its own, we do it. We've designed an extensive online spreadsheet where we can enter each precinct's vote totals as they come out of the counting machine.
On election night, we updated the totals from that about every 15 minutes, sometimes faster.
We've used it the last few elections and had great confidence in it. We found the bug this time.
It was a human error - mine. A programming error. When I set up the spreadsheet for the village election, I put the candidates' names in the wrong order.
In one of the two Shepherd precincts, incumbent Lee Coughlin got the votes meant for challenger Sandy Baxter, and vice-versa. It was enough to change the apparent outcome.
A sharp-eyed commenter on spotted it, and I read the comment early Thursday morning.
By 7:15 a.m., I had tracked down the goof and fixed it online. But that wasn't until after Thursday's print edition carried an item saying Baxter beat Coughlin.
I said some things that the profanity filters on our comments section would ban.
I count both Lee and Sandy as public-spirited people who both want what's best for their community. As people, I like them both.
I hope they'll accept my apology.
I do know that in the bang-bang, zoom-zoom world of online journalism, it won't be the last time a mistake will be made. But just as making the mistakes is faster than it used to be, correcting them is faster, too.
-- Mark R


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said it's a spreadsheet, don't make it out to be this complex story of "online journalism," if you can't do regular journalism right why in the world are you online?

If you can't drive don't race, the same principle applies

Just say, "I screwed up."

10:44 AM 

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