Consistency in message crucial to story

Published 10:32 pm Saturday, February 14, 2009

One part of being in the publishing business means that sometimes you’re going to have to make amends for mistakes that you make in delivering an incorrect message to your readers and community.

Like most businesses, and the imperfect people who run them, no matter how hard we try not to make them, we make mistakes. And we make a lot of them. They’re not premeditated and they’re certainly not done out of malice, but our mistakes are very, very public and invariably come at the expense of an individual or group of people.

Well we made a doozy recently, and we made it in 35 point type on the front page of the newspaper.

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With the headline “Henry Brick shutting down, cites slow housing market” we wrongfully gave the impression that the business was, well, going out of business.

Anyone who read the first paragraph of the story would have immediately known that the venerable brick company that has been a part of Selma since 1946 was going nowhere, but was just temporarily halting production until their inventory could catch up to demand. But the damage was done.

Those who scanned the front page before leaving for work or read the headline through the glass on one of our vending machines got the impression that Henry Brick was out of business. And that’s the message they passed on to others, who passed on to others, etc. The reality is, as the story said, this type of production halt is something Henry Brick has had in the past, and will likely, I expect, have in the future given the cyclical nature of the economy and the need for components to respond to the ebb and flow of construction.

Based on their history and what I know of the staff and management of Henry Brick, I am confident they will weather this economic downturn and that they’ll resume operations and continue providing quality service, quality product and quality jobs to their customers and our community. In the meantime I extend our apology, my personal apology, to the Henry Brick family for our mistake.

I’m confident that we’ll make another mistake in the future, but you have my word that when we do we’ll do our best to correct it and make it right. I see that as a responsibility of serving our community. Other than that, it’s just the right thing to do.

As for what led to this mistake, we’ve reviewed our headline writing process to insure the message in big type is consistent with the small type that follows it.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support of community journalism.