Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Standing corrected

“Newspapering is an inexact science.”

I remember the long-ago editor and publisher of this newspaper, Bob Dunne, saying this whenever there was a mistake of some kind in the Reporter.

People would come into the office on Grand Avenue across from the hardware store and complain vehemently about an incorrect bowling score, a misspelled name or a factual error in a news story. All legitimate gripes. And the paper would print a correction in the next issue.

I must offer a “mea culpa” for an error in fact in last week’s column. Fire Marshall Mike Johnson gave us lots of good advice about fire safety last week at the Senior Center.

I made a mistake when reporting about what should be done about a grease fire in a pan on the stove. I said to smother it “with a towel.” I should have said to smother it by putting the lid on it. That’s the safest way to deal with one of those fires. A towel should not be used because it too could catch fire and only make things worse. I am sorry for the error.

Absolute objective accuracy is very important in journalism. That’s why there’s no room for opinion in news stories. The public expects and deserves the truth even if it’s a birthday or a score.

And the public deserves to get an acknowledgment of the error.

I learned a long time ago that no one likes to be corrected. As a child, I was taught proper pronunciation and grammar. And I always noted when these were not used properly. I learned that adults did not like being corrected.

I was about six years old and it was near Christmas. My grandmother and her sister came to visit and I was finishing decorating the tree with some last-minute tinsel.

My great-aunt said to me, “You better not put on too much tinsel because you’ll sperl the tree.”

“The correct way to pronounce it is spoil,” I said.

That evening I received a lecture from my mother about correcting adults.

After that I figured that kids were still fair game for correcting.

I was visiting a cousin in Brooklyn and he was talking about a recent trip he had made to Fort Greene Park. I had never heard of it and I thought for a while before saying, “Don’t you mean Fourth Greene Park.”

The adults got quite a laugh from that one.

When it came to correcting others, I learned quickly that teachers never like to be corrected. I suppose that they figure it’s their job to pass information on to the kids and not the other way around.

I corrected an English teacher on the pronunciation of “Arctic” and he had an attitude toward me for the rest of the year.

When I first started teaching some 100 years ago, I know that I never liked being corrected. It did not happen that often but when it did I used it as a learning situation for the student and me.

At first it’s tough to acknowledge, particularly if it’s from a kid who’s been a pain. Now he has you. Oh, well. Just accept it. And congratulate him on his skill.

On another subject: Sara Mundy at the Senior Center reported that “Monday Music and Light Movement Zoom” is being offered in conjunction with Touro and Suffolk Community College occupational therapy assistant students on Mondays from 11 to 11:45 a.m.

If you’d like to participate, call Sara at 631-749-1059 to sign up and get the Zoom link.