There’s nothing I hate more than sloppy mistakes, especially when I make them in stories I’m writing or miss them in stories I’m editing. I hate that sloppiness undermines important reporting. And I hate that human fallibility is so often perceived as malice. 

We made several mistakes over the last week. 

  • Last Monday night, in a story about a Durham County Board of Commissioners meeting, Thomasi McDonald errantly reported that the Durham Association of Educators had withdrawn its endorsement of Commissioner Brenda Howerton over her comments about Commissioner Heidi Carter. In addition, he also muffed a quote from Carter. The story posted late at night; by early Tuesday morning, my phone was blowing up with people demanding a correction. I quickly corrected the story. (Thomasi has since posted a longer apology and explanation, along with some thoughts about divisive racial politics in Durham. It’s worth a read.) 
  • In last week’s review of Saint James Seafood, we got the date of the downtown Durham gas explosion wrong. It happened in 2019, not 2018. I haven’t stopped kicking myself for missing that.
  • In last week’s profile of the Democratic Senate primary, we wrongly characterized the nature of Erica Smith’s state Senate district. She did not defeat an incumbent Republican but rather a Democrat in the primary. In the general election in 2014, she ran unopposed. We also misstated where Cal Cunningham was stationed in the Middle East; it was in Baghdad, not Kuwait. 

Not all of these errors are of equal importance. But I think they all trace back to the same root: I ask our writers to do a lot—to write daily blogs and weekly print stories and long-form features. Meanwhile, we don’t have a staff copy editor or a fact-checker. Our editors—myself included—do their best, but we (especially me) are an imperfect and hurried lot. 

I don’t say that as an excuse. There isn’t one. And the responsibility for whatever errors appear in this paper or on our website ultimately lies with me. I say it, rather, as an explanation. Like much of the industry, our writers are too often stressed, underpaid, and underappreciated. They work tirelessly to produce journalism that makes a difference because they believe in what they do. 

And we’ll continue busting our asses to do that, just, hopefully, without screwing up quite as much. 

P.S.: Help buy us a copy editor/fact-checker at

Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at

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