Had some early Sunday morning thoughts on errors, corrections, conflict, resolution, faith and journalism.

This is applicable to #UNC and the #NikoleHannahJones story, of course. But honestly, these are things I think about as a reporter all the time -- and have for many years.
We all, whatever we do, make errors.

I struggle with them as much as anyone. But I come to them with what I consider two enormous advantages:

1) I was raised by Southern Women, the Catholic Church and the United States Marine Corps.

2) I'm a professional journalist.
Let's take these one at a time.

What my mother, a Southern woman, taught me about making errors: It's inevitable. If you can laugh at it, laugh at it. If it's more serious than that, correct it and make restitution early. If you can do both, you're golden.
What my father, a career Marine, taught me about making errors: Honor, courage and commitment are important even (perhaps especially) when you are falling on your face. Lead from the front, even if you're leading in acknowledging and a correcting your own error.
What Catholicism taught me about addressing errors (and could stand to remember itself, more often): Honestly examine your failings, be sincere in your regret, confess fully, resolve to amend and not repeat your behavior, do penance/offer restitution.
Important for me to say that I no longer consider myself religious. But I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school at an early age, and have to admit the culture of Catholicism is still very much a part of my character.

Like good luggage and bad VD, you keep it forever.
What newsrooms taught me about errors: You're going to make them. What you do about them shows people what sort of reporter you are. And that determines everything else.
I've never been a reporter who fought people on corrections. Someone not liking what you've written? That's a different thing. But no one's ever had to fight me on correcting an error of fact or a reasonable clarification if something's unclear.
This has occasionally brought me into conflict with the odd editor who thought it was more important not to be seen to have corrections than to correct things as needed. Those editors were usually terrible about this as reporters as well.
I once had an argument with an editor who told me they didn't understand why I was so insistent on making corrections. Even if no one complained. Even if I simply caught some small error myself. Why this self-flagellating penance, they asked?
There was a disconnect between us inherent in the question.

In my religious cultural tradition, penance isn't as simple as self-punishment. It's a sacrament.
Most protestants are taught salvation comes through faith alone.

As a young Catholic, I was taught faith is necessary but not sufficient. Your faith - and your salvation - has to be evident in your action, in works.
"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”

- James 2:20

I learned scripture via the King James Bible, but there are so many modern translations I feel sure "O vain man" has at some point been rendered as "reporter."

If not, it's a missed opportunity.
"For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief."

- Proverbs 24:16

Confirmation, if you needed it, that there are worse things than typos.
In my observation, and I think most honest people would have to agree, the UNC System and UNC Chapel Hill would benefit from the basics I was taught as a kid about how and why confession works:

Examination. Sincere regret. Full confession. Amended behavior. Restitution.
Those central tenets - call them "core values," for the hell of it - are also what I was taught by good reporters and editors about the steps to correcting errors made in newspapers.
It's easy for large institutions, be they university systems or media organizations, to be long on regret but short on amended behavior. To embrace confession but omit restitution.
We're none of us perfect. But we can and should be better.

As Ben Bradlee used to remind daily newspaper reporters: "Our best today, better tomorrow."


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More from @JoekillianPW

9 Jul
Some context in tge discussion over #NikoleHannahJones, #UNC and journalism values.

Walter Hussman was so committed to his core values of journalism, centering objectivity and the separation of news and opinion, that he touted them on...Tucker Carlson.

Carlson has depended in court on the argument his reputation is such that reasonable people would not consider anything he says on his show to be a statement of fact.

Even when he *literally tells you* he is offering undisputed facts.

Carlson also used to work for Hussman at the Democrat-Gazette, which is not disclosed in this clip.

That disclosure would have been standard for small town newspapers for which I worked as a matter of basic journalistic principle.

Or, if you would prefer, a "core value."
Read 6 tweets
6 Jul
Meeting with #NikoleHannahJones for an interview this week made me reflect on my June interview with Walter Hussman, the conservative Arkansas media magnate and #UNC megadonor who lobbied against hiring her.

It's worth talking a bit about these two people and interviews.
When I interviewed Hussman last month, he projected an intense folksiness -- sort of Mr. Rogers meets Bill Clinton.

Given Hussman's history with the Clintons in Arkansas, he might not love that comparison. But it's apt.

A part of this was Hussman saying to me, repeatedly, "Well, Joe, you and I are both reporters..." or "Well, since we're both journalists I think you understand..."

This is a common rhetorical device. Find an area of common ground, assert affinity, create a bond.
Read 25 tweets
1 Jul
Gang, we should talk about some of the things I saw at yesterday's #UNC BOT meeting on tenure for #NikoleHannahJones.

I should start by saying my observations are informed by 20 years of professional reporting - covering cops and courts, local and state government, higher ed.
Given the controversy over the Nikole Hannah-Jones tenure issue, #UNC had to know there was going to be a large crowd at this meeting and they would see protests.

I wish I was kidding when I tell you I've seen multiple small town boards of aldermen handle protests much better.
I've been to a number of BOT meetings at The Carolina Inn, where they're generally held in one or several large ball rooms. Pre-pandemic, chairs were provided for the public. In the pandemic, those chairs were eliminated. A 75 person cap was in place yesterday, everyone standing.
Read 25 tweets
16 Aug 20
An observation about infection clusters at UNC Schools - Chapel Hill and otherwise: It's been obvious from the beginning of planning there would be infections and clusters. That's why from the beginning students, staff and faculty expressed concerns - particularly w/ dorms. (1/6)
During that same time, the consistent message from administration and the UNC System office has been: Yeah. People are going to get sick. That's why we have isolation/quarantine dorms and, hopefully, enough hospital beds and testing capacity. (2/6)
What we're seeing now isn't an unforeseen event and should not be a shock to those who have been paying attention. It's what it actually looks like when harm prevention is one concern but not the primary concern in a plan of this type and magnitude. (3/6)
Read 6 tweets

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