Those Devilish Details

I had to submit two corrections today — my first two at the Missourian and, as far as I can remember, ever.

Several weeks ago, I blogged about how much I value accuracy, and that’s something that’s been strengthened during my time at the Missourian (especially after an article from Fox News falsely reported MU holiday exam policies — the Missourian wrote an article clarifying the policies). It’s easy to get the general sense of a potential story, but as my editor said this morning, “The devil’s in the details.” And boy, was it in the details with this story.

I covered an MU Faculty Council forum Tuesday afternoon regarding proposed changes that would affect non-tenure-track faculty. Although the forum was fairly jargon-filled and had a lot of minor examples and conversations, I thought I had clearly understood the main points of the forum. Turns out I didn’t quite have everything ironed out.

My first misunderstanding occurred early in the forum when a panel member stated its purpose, which appeared to me (by the way it was stated at the forum) to be to change the Collected Rules and Regulations in two ways: to modify the definition of “faculty” and to give non-tenure-track voting rights on campus-wide issues. I now realize that the non-tenure-track voting rights are not a separate issue, but a result of changing the definition of “faculty” to include all ranked faculty members, which is different from what I had originally understood and published.

The second was a clarification I failed to make that changed the connotation of a sentence. Since 2000, there have been 11 campus-wide votes — I did not include “campus-wide” in the original story, which gives the false impression that Faculty Council has only voted 11 times in the past 13 years.

I could have made much worse mistakes, as my editor assured me this morning, so I won’t lose any sleep over them, especially because they were caught so early (thanks, Liz). However, I am going to take this as a humbling learning experience and a reminder that, as much as a story is about getting main points across to readers, the details are what reporters have to watch out for.

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