Journalists take pride in their reporting. It helps them tell everyday stories as well as in-depth pieces that attempt to explain change.
Deadline pressures are real, and so are the stories. Unfortunately, in rare cases, a lack of character can lead to falsehoods.
In at least two instances last month, the Gateway published stories with fabricated information. The premise for the stories was true in both instances, but the quotes contained within were not genuine.
We published a story titled “Olympic Dreams” on page B1 on July 31 that detailed the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team and some of its upcoming events. Head coach Alan Anderson was quoted several times throughout, but our reporter never had a conversation with Anderson.
As Anderson approached the topic with me a few weeks ago, he told me they were some of the best quotes he’s had in the paper in the 10 years he’s led the canoe and kayak program. Trouble is, he didn’t say them.
The previous week, on July 24, we ran a story on page B1 titled “Best in the whole state” that contained direct quotes from coaches who didn’t talk to our reporter. There was an email exchange with game recaps from the girls Little League games, and a separate email back-and-forth to gather information about an Athlete of the Week nomination for an advertising client, but Bob Werner, the coach of the Gig Harbor girls 10-11 team that won the state championship, never did meet meet — or speak to — our reporter.
Werner wanted to let the situation go. He’s also the athletic director at Gig Harbor High School, so he didn’t want to push the issue. He knows he’ll work with us in the future and didn’t want to raise a fuss. But the report understandably left a sour taste in his mouth, even though he used words such as “generic” and “non-harmful” to describe the fabrications.
None of it is acceptable by any journalistic standard. We take our jobs — and our credibility in the community — seriously.
The reporter, who no longer works for the newspaper, was dealing with personal issues that kept him away from the office for a few weeks. He was new to the community and attempting to learn a complex system. He also was trying to pick up photography and page design.
All were difficult in the six-week timeframe when he was on the job, but none are reasons to break the public’s trust in our publication or others in the McClatchy Company.
We cover a multitude of events, from city government and political campaigns, to our schools, neighbors and sporting events. We currently have two reporters and a photographer on staff, and they attend as many events as they can, or preview a coming attraction as frequently as possible.
It’s important to us — and all journalists — that you can take our community-focused reporting as part of the real conversation that develops around issues in Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula.
That’s why it’s important we share this information in a public setting, because we always want to recognize and set the record straight when an inaccuracy occurs.
If you do happen to notice something that’s not correct in a future story, please let me know so we can correct it right away.
Our relationship with the community is based on trust and seeking the truth, and you can help us along the way.Editor and Publisher Brian McLean can be reached at 253-358-4150 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brian.