Words in My Mouth

The Stateline News, a free weekly newspaper published here in Beloit, ran a “People You Know” article about me in the Sunday (12/31/05) edition. If you’re a local, you already have it. If not, my apologies, but there’s no web link to any such piece.

Mostly, I’m happy with it. I always appreciate free publicity, even in a publication with such a clear right-wing bias. (It regularly runs statement papers from the Cato Institute as editorial pieces.) However, the article did liberally misquote me in a couple places. For example, “Our young people need to understand the value of education and hard work.”

While I don’t disagree that there’s value in education and hard work, I would never have given this quote. For one, I never refer to those under eighteen as “young people.” Second, to imply that only the young need these values—and that merely by being older I’ve climbed some kind of mount from which I can dispense my hard-earned wisdom—strikes me as condescending. It’s one of those clichés along the lines of “kids these days” that’s grated on my nerves ever since I was a kid myself. It’s right up there with walking uphill to school—both ways.

I’ve seen all sorts of misquotes and inaccuracies, though, in just about every article I’ve been close to. The speed at which local news is reported means the papers rarely have a chance to go back and check facts. The mistakes are rarely worth getting bothered about, so most of the time people just let them slide. Normally, I do too. As long as there’s no malice intended on the part of the paper or the reporter, it’s usually harmless.

I’ve done a bit of journalism myself, after all. I used to write for InQuest, and I still write an article for each Games Quarterly Magazine. Accuracy doesn’t come easy. It’s a goal you must continually strive for if you care to achieve it.