I got an email the other day from an Orange County woman who claimed the Times Herald-Record was practicing “Fake News” and that we “took a knee” because of what we failed to report on a notable, patriotic story.
She wanted to it to be published as a “Letter to the Editor.”
I’ll assume she’s a regular reader of the Record. How else would she know what we didn’t have in our newspaper?
Then again, if she was a regular reader she’d know that her claim was just not true.
In her letter she said that for four days “an exact replica of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Wall was on display in Newburgh on the banks of the Hudson.” She added, “The Wall That Heals attracted hundreds of men, women, and children who came to honor the memory of the 58,272 men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country.”
She's right. It did come to Newburgh and it elicited so many emotions. Some which had been hidden for decades. We reported this over several days.
She added, “They came night and day, through rain, mud, and searing heat. They left flowers, flags, and notes. The Newburgh Symphony Orchestra performed a stirring tribute to the fallen, as did the family members and buddies with their moving candlelight ceremony.”
Again, I couldn’t agree more. Where I have a problem is what she wrote after that:
“I tell you this because the Times Herald Record did not.”
In truth, The Record did.
My colleague Ken Hall paid tribute to the men and women whose names are on The Wall That Heals in his column the day the wall arrived in Newburgh. The next day we ran a front page picture and a story of the wall’s arrival; we did a Facebook Live broadcast of the opening ceremonies of the wall and the next day ran a story on that emotional first day of the wall with a link to even more photos and videos of the opening ceremony. That same day in our GO! entertainment section we ran a photo of the musical director of the Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra to promote the concert to take place at the wall.
I can assure you that after 30 years in the newspaper business I’ve received just about every kind of letter from readers questioning what we do and don’t print, what we fail to cover and how we cover something. Name any issue or any side and there’s somebody who thinks we’re playing favorites. But really, that’s OK.
I respect people’s complaints. Cherish them. They usually come from our most loyal readers.
And yes, we make mistakes. Lots of them. Sometimes really bad ones. Embarrassing ones. And more often than not it’s the readers who catch the mistakes and let us know about it.
But in those 30 years, working at several newspapers, we never intentionally made a mistake, reported facts we knew not to be true or blatantly lied to our readers. When a mistake was made we’d regret the error and print a correction with the right information. Readers understood that. They weren’t always happy with how we handled things but they'd concede it was a mistake and accept our apology. No taunts of “Fake News.”
I was going to end this column wishing we could go back to that time, say two years ago, when we weren't as divided as a nation. Tolerant of differing viewpoints. Mature enough to apologize for our mistakes and willing to accept an apology. Then I got another email from that same Orange County woman. It began, “I apologize.”
She said she is not in the habit of writing accusatory letters and in her frustration failed to see the stories.
She ended her email by thanking me for caring.