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I heard my fair share of “Dewey defeats Truman” quips last week. They were, of course, referring to the famous image of Harry Truman gleefully holding up a copy of the …
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I heard my fair share of “Dewey defeats Truman” quips last week.
They were, of course, referring to the famous image of Harry Truman gleefully holding up a copy of the election issue of the Chicago Tribune in 1948 that erroneously declared Truman had lost the race to Republican challenger Thomas E. Dewey.
Good-hearted folks around here thought of that after the Brighton Standard Blade had our own Dewey moment when we called Dick McLean the winner of the city’s Nov. 3 mayoral race.
McLean was leading the race and avoiding a run-off election when we went to press late Tuesday evening. By the next day, his vote tally had slipped under 50 percent and, per city charter, plans for the runoff were announced. McLean has since been declared the winner because second-place finisher Dick Hodge withdrew from the runoff.
Some would call our premature call last week an indictment of why the newspaper business is fading and has lost relevance, an argument for why the Internet is a better place to get news.
A simple mouse click can instantly change the occasional headline and information on a Web site. But newspapers must stand on what they have reported until the next issue, whether it be the next day or the next week. The Internet is simply better suited to accommodate our appetite for late breaking news and rapidly-changing stories.
While I’m obviously biased, I still find comfort in the humanity of the newspaper, in its fallibility. Newspapers still demand a certain measure of accountability from those who produce them. You’ll probably snicker and make mention of how journalistic accountability disappeared a long time ago.
But I’m talking about the accountability of making decisions. The Internet has no deadlines. It is a vast thread with no visible beginning or end. Stories are written, rewritten and written again, the former melting beneath the new words.
Producing a newspaper is a series of decisions – what information stays, what information goes. And in the matter of election coverage or any unfolding story, it comes down to a pride-swallowing moment where you must be confident enough in the story you have to let go and believe it will still stand up for readers the next morning.
When it works, it is a beautiful process. When it doesn’t, the editor must sheepishly explain himself the next day.
But, given all that and the good-natured ribbing we, as a paper, took, I truly wouldn’t have it any other way (other than to, of course, have a completed race by deadline).
Last week’s paper is now history. And it is a testament to the fact that, yes, we are human and sometimes we may jump the gun.
I doubt I’ll ever see the day when a politician proudly holds up a computer monitor that has falsely labeled him the loser of an election. And that’s fine with me.
Newspapers represent us far better than any computer will.
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