Sometimes news bytes bite back

— Monday night’s Liverpool Central School District Board of Education meeting contained some important discussions regarding the $10.3 million budget gap the district faces and possible solutions for that crisis, as well as the continuing day-to-day business of running one of the largest districts in Central New York.

But if all you did was watch the 11 o’clock news, you wouldn’t know it.

No, if you watched the television news, you learned that Liverpool was cutting back to half-day kindergarten as a cost-cutting measure.

Unfortunately, that’s not what actually happened. The television news crews got their interviews before the board meeting actually started, then left before the discussion on the kindergarten proposal actually took place. Had they stayed, they would have learned that Superintendent Richard Johns was merely asking the board if he should propose cutting back to half-day kindergarten in the budget he’ll present Feb. 27 — and the general public would have learned that, too. They also would have learned that the board didn’t want any such thing. Why? Because it’s not in the educational interest of the students of the district.

The media, in all its forms, has a responsibility to the communities we serve and the newsmakers within them. Getting the story correct is the most important part of that responsibility, more important than beating a deadline and certainly more valuable than scooping the competition.

We take that responsibility seriously, and while we aren’t always perfect in our reporting, our mistakes aren’t motivated by an agenda or an overblown sense of journalistic competition. If we pick out bits and pieces of news and sensationalize them for effect, not only are we not doing our job, we’ll eventually lose the public’s trust, and then we’re useless.

At Monday’s meeting, board member David Watson paraphrased Winston Churchill, and his words are appropriate here:

“A lie and innuendo get halfway around the world before truth gets its pants on.”

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