Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, November 23, 2006

  Thankful for forgiving readers

Because everything I write has a substantial proportion of error, I give thanks today for forgiving readers. Call them what you will—inaccuracies, implausibilities, glaring omissions of fact, flights of fancy, fabrications—the sheer number of times I've supplied misleading information during the last year might have turned off a less tolerant bunch than you. And yet apart from a few stern letters sent in by obvious soreheads, you've been quite incredibly forgiving of the falsehoods I've disseminated.

For instance just last week I wrote that the North Carolina Baptist Convention had taken a firm stand against usury ("The only sin that has its own advocacy group"). I may have been a little precipitous in posting that story, though. Baptist ministers responded by insisting, in multiple emails, that they'd done no such thing—yet. They were concentrating for the moment on expelling gays rather than usurers, they explained.

I think we'll just have to see whether my report on the Baptists turns out to have been premature, then.

That was a story sent to me by my friend Milo, and perhaps I haven't always been sufficiently critical of his scoops. He was responsible, in mid-October, for another report that I've come slightly to regret: Baltimore Orioles' GM promises to "stay the course". Though I kept my doubts to myself at the time, I was never really convinced by Milo's claim that the White House expected the team to win the World Series easily, with only modest changes in strategy. As it turns out, the Orioles had already been eliminated from the playoffs. I regret that I neglected to look into that aspect of the story at the time I wrote up Milo's report.

Come to think of it, the overheard conversations he's reported contain some exaggerated elements that readers are right to complain about. Also, some of the people he meets have made dubious claims, to say the least. Milo's story this summer about a bitter conflict among neighbors (The Deer War), for example, has some credibility problems. He admitted under cross-examination that he'd written it as a parable. At that stage I was nearly done formatting his story, which is the only reason why I posted it at all. That one I think I'd say is "no longer operative", in retrospect, given his admission that it's fictitious.

Not all mistakes are Milo's fault, however. Other bloggers whom I take material from are to blame as well. (And this, incidentally, is the best reason for making a big point of acknowledging where you're swiping your stuff from.)

Last fall I got into hot water by trusting in a blog report that claimed a revolt was taking shape in Congress against Democratic Party activists and bloggers (BREAKING: Congressional Dems to split with Party?). Since then I've been assured that one or more of those meetings did not occur, and that Party leaders have never complained about the influence of bloggers. In my defense, I can only say that the report seemed to be worth discussing, whether or not it was credible.

All in all, I feel very fortunate that my readers have an unusually high toleration for inaccuracy. I promise that in the coming year I'll continue to provide you with the most interesting and unusual news available anywhere on the internet, of the level of quality you've come to expect.

And just to re-assure my more critical readers that I view their complaints very seriously, I also want to take this occasion to retract in advance several further errors I plan on making in the coming months.

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