This past Saturday I covered the LeeShore Center's Run for Women. The results, which were handed to me by a LeeShore staff member, contained incorrect information. Naturally, the next day the Clarion was hit with a wave of criticism via e-mail and phone calls.
On Wednesday, I read some Facebook posts regarding the issue, prompting me to write this response. After a runner posted on her wall that the Clarion "of course" put her in the wrong category, she retracted the statement in a later post when she learned LeeShore recorded the results. In response, another person urged her not to "let the media so quickly off the hook." It is the media's duty to confirm and verify information, the post read.
That statement couldn't be truer. That is a journalist's most basic job. Which is why I handed the results back immediately after receiving them -- I had spotted an error. After a half hour or so, I was given an updated version. The new results still contained misinformation.
I received a third version of the results Wednesday afternoon. There was at least one error I noticed and I was told the person responsible for the results would not be back in the office until Monday. The Clarion will rerun the results when it feels confident they contain no mistakes.
In sportswriting, the reporter is dependent on others to provide information, especially at community races. Recording every participant's time -- the Run for Women typically has 150 to 225 runners -- is just as unrealistic as confirming each racer's time with them individually. All the journalist can do is scan the results and look for any red flags.
The same goes for prep sports. If a player's name is misspelled on a roster, which is provided by the coach, it will obviously appear incorrect in print. Again, it is impractical to verify spellings of names with each athlete from every school for every sport that the Clarion covers. As such, there will invariably be errors in the paper.
There are two sensible solutions to prevent the Run for Women incident from happening again -- don't list results for any race or don't provide coverage of any running events. It's a lose-lose situation for the Clarion and the community. Race results are a great way to get local names in the paper, it gives those that participated a chance to compare their performance to others, and often the Clarion is the only place to find comprehensive results for many community races.
As a sports reporter, it's my job to help cover as many activities that occur on the central Kenai Peninsula as a two-person sports department can. Ignoring races would take away from balanced coverage.
There is a third option -- continue to run results provided by the host organization. It may not be a perfect solution, but it's the most practical.
My goal in writing this response isn't to absolve the Clarion from all of the blame nor is it to encourage readers to redirect their frustrations toward the LeeShore Center, or any future organization hosting an event. I am asking for understanding.
People make mistakes. Newspapers make mistakes. And sometimes newspapers' mistakes are the result of people's mistakes that have no affiliation with that newspaper.
The moral of the story is class plays on through on through a referees' mistake and doesn't even think of using that mistake as an excuse. Greatness not only plays on through the mistake, but wins in spite of it.
The story comes from a recent Sports Illustrated article on St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial. It was 1954 and the Cardinals were trailing the Cubs 3-0 in the seventh inning in Chicago. St. Louis had a runner on first base, and Musial was at the plate with one out.
Musial laced a double down the right-field line to score the runner on first. According to newspaper reports, the ball was definitely fair, but the first-base umpire ruled the ball was foul. A player and a coach were immediately ejected for arguing the call, and more ejections were imminent.
Musial was apparently unsure of why there was so much commotion. He walked over to the umpiring crew chief.
"What happened?" Musial asked. "It didn't count, huh?"
Without saying another word, Musial went back to the plate and doubled to the same spot in right field. The ball was called fair and the Cardinals would come back to win the game.
With the prep season getting ready to reach full speed, the next time fans, coaches or players are ready to berate an official and blame a loss on a call, they would do well to remember this story.
Mike Nesper and Jeff Helminiak work in the sports department at the Peninsula Clarion. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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