Clarifying the Tipton Faux Pas

You know, I hate these kerfuffles with mainstream media reporters, particularly with Jerry Tipton.  He inspires so much passion (most of it negative) that it can suck all the air out of an otherwise good day, and convert it into napalm-throwing anger.

John Clay of the Herald-Leader was kind enough to email me this morning about the matter.  Of course, he did not try to speak for Tipton, nor the paper, but just assured me that Tipton made an error in his characterization of events, and did not intend to describe Patterson driving off in his truck that way, as though he actually saw it happen.  His main point was, Tipton had no malicious intent in making that mistake, it was just a misworded sentence that got through.

Tipton has corrected his article on the Herald-Leader website (the sentence now reads "For Patterson, the fun figures to continue when he climbs back into his new black truck."), and according to Larry Vaught, has apologized to the Pattersons, which they have presumably accepted.  Tipton's clarification can be found on his blog, for what it's worth, and I find it pretty weak beer.

So what should we make of all this?

For me, I can understand how mistakes can happen in articles like this.  Why?  Because I make them all the time, and they get pointed out -- sometimes emphatically and with unpleasant additional commentary.

You may ask how I can be so understanding of something so apparently egregious, and my answer is that unless you write stuff for public consumption, you have no idea how easy or frequently these kinds of errors can crop up.  What typically happens is that you go back and edit something you have written, and then don't reread the whole thing closely.  Suddenly, that sentence you just edited seems to say something completely at odds with what you intended.  Sometimes you catch it, and sometimes not.  Sometimes it is defensible as misunderstood, and sometimes, not so much.

You may wonder why his editor would not catch it, but really, that's an easy one.  Editors depend on reporters to get the facts straight, and a fact like that would not really be subject to checking -- Tipton was apparently describing an event he witnessed, and how could an editor gainsay him in that case?  He could have checked with the Pattersons, but Tipton isn't exactly a cub reporter and would be expected to get his facts, especially one written as though he saw it himself, straight.

In the end, I will accept this explanation, although I don't expect it will play very well in the Big Blue Nation.  It is said that he who lives in a glass house is unwise to cast stones, and I have made many mistakes that could as easily be called animus instead of carelessness.  At the same time, I am most dissatisfied with the fact that Tipton did not explain all this in more detail.  It probably wouldn't have mattered to his detractors, but I would have liked to have seen him do it.

For those of you who think Tipton has an agenda, he almost undoubtedly does.  He wants to expose facts like Patterson's car to public scrutiny, and have an explanation as to where it came from.  The fact that having it out there like that, unexplained, can cause people to draw incorrect conclusions or ask skeptical questions seems not to trouble him at all. 

In a way, it is good to have a guy searching for compliance problems -- it keeps UK on their toes and forces them to be especially careful.  But it is certainly going to alienate the fans, this one included.  I don't like Tipton's style at all, but I have to say that errors happen, and the rule is, never impute to malice that which can be easily explained by incompetence (in this case, carelessness or a tight deadline).  Yes, I am aware of charges by many UK fans that Tipton is actually working against UK.  I am not satisfied that is so, but I refuse to discount the possibility, and Tipton has done nothing to reassure me in that regard.

In this case, Jerry's writing was careless, not malicious.  That's my opinion, for what it's worth.  He has apologized to those most directly affected, as he should have.  I guess that will have to do.

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