To the Point for 7/13/06

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MY SIXTH GRADE TEACHER, ANNE COOK, used to look at me and say “There was only one perfect person, Patrick, and they killed Him a long time ago.”

Her point? Relax and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. No matter how hard you try, no one is ever going to be perfect. No matter how close you look, there are going to be mistakes, and there are going to be times when others need to realize that everyone is flawed.

I made a mistake.

No getting around it. No dodging it. No place else to put the blame.

I did it. It happens.

On the front page of last week’s issue of the Vevay Newspapers, somehow I typed that the livestock auction at the Switzerland County 4-H Fair was to start at 6:30 p.m.

It actually started at 4 p.m.

It was an honest mistake. Somewhere some gremlin in my computer is giggling to himself that it got past everyone and into print.

The problem with weekly newspapers is that, no matter how much you’d like to, you can’t fix it. At least not until a week later. We asked our friends at The Madison Courier to run the correct time in their Saturday edition; and we also posted a special bullet on our website letting people know the correct time.

We did everything we could to help fix the problem, and then we did something else.

We apologized.

To the fairboard, and to you.

This newspaper is consistently judged as one of the best weekly newspapers in the entire state. We win awards. We are invited to share our success stories with other newspapers. We are proud to represent this community on a state and now national level.

But we also make mistakes. Everyone does.

Even those people who take great joy in pointing out the mistakes of others; they, too, have a flaw every now and then.

Vevay Newspapers is a big supporter of the Switzerland County 4-H program. We devote pages to reporting on everything from club meetings to the fair itself. We spend money at the auction supporting county children.

We live in a society today that relies on technical things like “spell check” to proofread our information. We highlight a passage and we hit a button, and if the computer says “done”, we figure that we are.

That’s not just newspapers, but everyone from college students writing term papers to major corporations preparing annual reports.

Technology is a powerful and wonderful thing. It decreases task time by an amazing amount; and it allows us through the Internet to have instant access to information that it may have taken us weeks to find a decade ago.

We use computers to communicate with each other, from text messages to telephone services that utilize cables to spread information.

But, in spite of all of that technology, computers have also made us lazy in terms of actually reading what we write. We assume because the computer says its right — that it is. The problem is that a computer doesn’t read in context, it simply reads words and scans a preexisting list of words to see if it matches.

That means a computer doesn’t see “where” and “were” differently and point that out to the writer. They are both acceptable words, and the computer says “done”.

But it’s wrong.

And we were about the auction time.

Giving an apology doesn’t allow me to take it back, but it does allow me to acknowledge that this newspaper, and its editor, feels horribly that a mistake like this happened.

And we will do everything we can to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

But, as human beings, the best we can do is try and keep them at a minimum.