From the publisher

Sentinel will start paying for its mistakes

Life teaches us there is a price for making mistakes. Or least the important ones. There is no penalty for picking up the wrong flavor of ice cream at the store, other than you have to eat the entire half-gallon before you can go back and get the correct flavor.

Actually, that sounds like a prize, not a penalty.

I'm talking the kinds of mistakes that a lot of people notice or that lead to other problems. Just like a football team gets penalized valuable yardage for their blunders on the field, and the same as bank customers pay a fee when they mess up and bounce a check, so too will the Sentinel pay the consequences of its mistakes.

No, not by marking off an extra 15 yards to the coffee stand. More like the bounced-check fee.

Besides for the remorse and embarrassment of making a mistake for hundreds of readers to see, the Sentinel will assess itself a penalty fee. Such as if we misspell name or, as we did last week, get an assembly vote count wrong and report that school opened Tuesday, when it was Monday.

Starting immediately, every time the Sentinel makes a factual mistake, we will donate $50 to the charity of choice of the person or organization subjected to our error.

The rules are fairly minimal: The $50 can go only to nonprofits and community groups; not political causes. I'm OK paying for my mistakes, but I am not going to compound the error by writing a check to a political group.

The penalty will be paid for errors of substance, such as misspelled or the wrong names, facts that are important in the story, anything that would mislead or misinform readers. Grammar errors are ineligible for the fee. At 70, I am still leaning the difference between affect and effect, and have not yet mastered the finer points of participles and modifiers.

The limit is one fee per error, even if we misspell a name for a family of 12 people. Sorry, but my embarrassment is worth only so much.

I may adopt some other rules as this moves along, but I promise to get them right. Nothing wrongheaded.

If you are the subject of an error, or if you are a better editor that week than me, you need to call it in within the week the paper is out. Besides for writing the check, we would want to print a correction in the next issue of the Sentinel. If we wait too long, readers may forget what it is that we are correcting.

Part of me hopes not to write any $50 checks this year, or any year. Mistakes weaken the credibility of a newspaper. And after Facebook took away many of our readers and advertisers, we can't afford to lose any more.

But part of me hopes that we have a few not-too-harmful mistakes, maybe even some funny ones. I'd be happy to write those checks.


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