One common complaint we hear from readers is that reporters, when caught messing up some key point of Roman Catholic doctrine, will claim that they are right because they were “raised Catholic” or “went to Catholic school.”
Frequently this response to messing up a story is made in private correspondence. But related to the BuzzFeed discovery of St. Augustine’s teachings we discussed on Sunday (“Political reporters learn about St. Augustine. Chaos ensues.“), I saw a great example in public. It’s worth looking at.
A full day after reporter Joel Gehrke gently corrected Andrew Kaczynski’s story premise, Kaczynski simply retweeted it out and doubled down on how right he was. Check it out via this fancy new Storify tool I’m using:
Isn’t that great? I mean, the condescension of that “my friend” line is just delicious in light of how many people are trying to tell Kaczynski about original sin — one of the more basic teachings of traditional Christianity.
It’s one thing to be ignorant of basic Christianity. It’s another thing to condescendingly rebuke the person correcting you because of your education.
Now, I don’t know if Kaczynski wasn’t paying attention to those monks or if they were just really bad educators or what, but if you’re going to appeal to your education, you really should make sure you’re right.
When you’re not, it’s just embarrassing.
The rest of the exchange — which involves other people gently correcting Kaczynski — seems to have had the same effect as everyone else.
This is part of a general pattern I see. So let’s remember — when we mess up a story, either in the details or the entire premise, defensiveness is not the appropriate response. And don’t blame your teachers for your own ignorance or condescend to those trying to correct you! It hurts trust with the reader. We all make mistakes. We all feel the pressures of reporting on deadlines. We make mistakes. Own ’em, correct ’em and move on. Right?