By Tim Leeds
Have you ever thought you understood someone or something, only to find out you were completely wrong?
I've only been writing for the newspaper a little more than four months now, and I've found myself doing that several times already.
That's kind of a problem in a job where my duty is quite simple. I'm supposed to report the facts. Period. If I don't know what the facts are, it's kind of hard to report what they are.
Dr. Stephen Sylvester, dean of the college of arts and sciences at Montana State University-Northern and co-coordinator of the university's NCATE accreditation team, was actually quite understanding when I completely reversed the facts in the first sentence of my article about the search for accreditation. At least he was after his initial reaction, which wasn't quite as understanding.
Somehow, and I'm still not sure how, I transformed the fact that MSU-Northern, the only education college in the state without NCATE accreditation now, could be the first accredited under NCATE's proposed new standards. I turned that into MSU-Northern being the first university in the state ever to be accredited by the council. Only a complete reversal of the facts.
Other things are a little more minor, like name misspellings. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, never did complain about his name being misspelled Testor. Actually, to my amazement, I noticed it myself on the actual paper in the newsstand, when it's a little late to correct it. It was a little worse when I misspelled "Ahrens" as "Smith." I really have no idea how I pulled that one off. In a wedding announcement yet. I appreciate my editor letting me run the correct announcement in the next community page, instead of forcing a couple to save a newspaper correction in their wedding scrapbook.
Another interesting one was somehow writing Tom Billingsley's name as area manager of the Havre BLM field station instead of his dad, Owen, the actual area manager. The weirdest thing was that I was looking at Mr. Billingsley's business card to make sure I had his title right while I misspelled "Owen" as "Tom."
This one I'm not sure if I misunderstood something or if my source was faulty. When I wrote the Hi-Line Living feature on the Havre Community Concert, I spoke of "Havre native Karan Armstrong," who had gone on to become a premier opera singer, attending school in Havre before moving to Dodson. I have since received a couple of letters telling me that Armstrong had apparently never lived in or attended school in Havre.
Well, all I know is what I read in the papers. I had taken that information from a copy of the Havre Daily News written while Armstrong was performing with the community concert, and from a national press release by the concert association itself. I guess I never thought I'd need to verify those sources, but I was apparently wrong.
I pride myself on taking my job seriously. I will always try to report the facts as I record them, and I can only hope, I guess, that I record them correctly and that my sources are correct.
Knowing me, I probably won't always get them right. I hope our readers will have patience with me. I'm always ready and willing to write up a correction if I need to. I would hope that I never need to write another correction. I probably will, though. Oh, well.