At the Newsleaders, we take pride in our commitment to accurate, unbiased reporting. And although our columnists and letter writers may lean more to one side or the other, historically on the whole we’ve managed to balance sides and ensure opinions shared are grounded in facts.
That’s why we were mortified to discover an egregious error of fact in the column “We’re supposed to empathize with lunatics?!” published Jan. 24.
Before we dive into what happened, first let’s be clear. The error was not an intentional misrepresentation of fact by the columnist, Dennis Dalman.
Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for almost 40 years, with 16 years at the Alexandria Echo Press and 22 years at the Newsleaders. His commitment to accuracy is top-notch, and his record is impeccable.
For these reasons, and many others, it’s beyond unfortunate that in an article about “toxic disinformation,” our editing team performed an epic disservice.
Dalman correctly stated in his column that, at the time of writing, 350,000 Americans had died from COVID-19. On first review, this fact was verified; however, the number actually included a typo: the addition of a zero. The first reviewer missed it and mentally saw the number as 350,000 rather than 3500,000. The final reviewer noticed the extra zero and thought an additional comma was needed, changing the number from 3500,000 to 3,500,000 rather than performing another fact check.
And, that’s what went to press.
The silver lining behind this embarrassing breakdown in our process is the onslaught of emails that followed were fast and furious. Some simply pointed out the error with links to official statistics. Some pointed out the hypocrisy of criticizing toxic disinformation at the same time we are distributing toxic information. Some even pointed out this was “typical fake news.”
The error was quickly updated on our website and social media platforms with an editor’s note about the error in the print versions of our papers.
While it was painful to admit our failure in process when responding to everyone who wrote in, it was also gratifying to be reminded our readership appreciates and demands accurate information in our news, features and columns.
As for Dalman, he was gracious when informed of the error forever tied to his name in the print version.
Mr. Dalman, again, we are sorry.