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Commentary: Fatal Flaws

Journalism isn’t science or art. It’s a craft. And regardless of their skill level or experience, craftspeople make mistakes. The better they are, the fewer they make but errors are inevitable. Lord knows I’ve made my share during the years.

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Long before the facts were in, a report of a fatality during a solo-boat incident in which no one on board sustained major injuries during the 1,000 Islands Charity Poker Run appeared on Facebook. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.

Misspelling a name is about as embarrassing as it gets—trust me on that one. Messing up facts such as boat length or power also isn’t any fun. Nor are grammatical gaffs such as omitted words (trust me on that one, too). And if you don’t know the difference between to, too and two or they’re, their and there, you can pretty much forget about the “tricky stuff” such as where the apostrophe is supposed to go or how to use double and single quotation marks.

But while hardly desirable, all of that, at least in small infrequent doses, is forgivable because it does no harm. Here is what’s not: Reporting a death in an accident when a death didn’t happen—or when the person in question hasn’t actually died.

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