Errors in Fact, Part I

I made a mistake.

It was an honest mistake as opposed to a dishonest one, as if that makes a difference; it was an error in fact in this very blog.

Here’s the back story.

In a blog titled “For Sale, Cheap,” I wrote about Craigslist scams and the experience I had had selling a car and buying a refrigerator through that list. As my friend “Bob” said, “$1,200 is too much for a fridge. $3,000 is mindless.” I agree wholeheartedly so I bought a far cheaper new-to-me fridge and I spun a column out of the experience.

Nothing ever goes quite as planned, I wrote then. Prescient, I am.

The fridge was in the Stanley Switlik estate. That marvelous site boasts some of the most beautiful Marathon acreage. The former owner of the refrigerator told me she was moving because “D’Asign Source had bought the property for development.” I included that tidbit in the story. In fact, I wrote that they would tear down the mansion and build condos. None of that was important to the story itself except it added some local color.

[Photos Removed]

Terri Nuechterlein, Director of Marketing for D’Asign Source, brought me up short.

“D’Asign Source did not buy the old Switlik property,” she wrote as a comment. “We were hired to design and build a private home for the person who did purchase the property. You will be pleased to know there are no plans for condos.”

I am indeed.

D’Asign Source is a Marathon success story. Owned by a local family and a major local employer, they have grown in half a century from a modest concrete business to a significant building, interior design, and landscaping company that has changed the architectural face of the Keys. The family “wants their projects to be right for our area,” Ms. Nuechterlein said. I am personally fond of one of those projects, the ten unit Turtle Cays condos in Key Colony Beach. These units evoke the wood frame look of the old Florida Keys and make excellent use of a long, narrow lot. The yearly D’Asign Source landscape tour benefits Pigeon Key. They host the annual Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. They also donated the recyclable and reusable construction materiel to the Habitat for Humanity store. Good company. Good people.

The Switlik property sold for $7 million last November and the 1956 home is now gone. “It really was not in the best repair anymore,” Ms. Nuechterlein told me. The estate will become “a great private compound for a lucky family and plenty of friends!” That lucky family has “expressed an interest in several green initiatives.” The staged project will be completed in about two years.

Three hundred fifty word back story.

I write this blog as a hobby but that doesn’t negate my responsibility to check facts. I do, after all, include straight reportage as the underpinning of every opinion I write.

Fact checking is more important to the reader than to the writer or publisher. Oh, sure, the publisher wants to avoid serious, costly difficulties such as the disbelief, suspicion, and lawsuits that surrounded the high profile fraud of Dan Rather or Stephen Glass. The reader needs to believe that the words are accurate. After all, “It’s on the Internet so it must be true” is today’s mantra.

Ever wonder what moved the media far from the yellow journalism that sold so many newspapers for William Randolph Hearst? Fact checkers.

I believe that most newspapers have eliminated the position of fact checker, just as most newspapers have eliminated the position of copy editor. The cost of those positions was more than advertisers were willing to bear. It means that reporters must verify the information they publish. And that means you, dear reader, must now verify the information you see or hear.

Verification is a three-step process. The viewer or reader needs to derive if a piece is opinion or news. That is no small task even on a news program. Next the viewer or reader needs to determine if the story is complete or is slanted by omission. Finally the viewer or reader needs to decide the accuracy of each statement presented as fact.

“Just the facts, ma’am,” Joe Friday taught us. Fact checking requires quick and accurate research. I didn’t do that and for that I apologize to my readers and to D’Asign Source. I’ll do better.

Quite a project, I said this morning to one of the site workers on the estate.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

8 thoughts on “Errors in Fact, Part I

  1. It is good that you are a big enough man to admit your mistake. I AM© a fairly good sized guy myself, and I could well qualify as “a big enough man” to admit a mistake; but fortunately for me I have never made one.

    A few months ago I thought I had made a bad mistake, but after checking more closely, it turned out I was wrong.

    Mrs Poleczech often remarks to her sister about what a bad mistake she made in marrying me instead of the guy who danced onstage with his basket full. Although I admire her forthrightness, I have never told her that he enhanced his visual prowess with wads of tissue paper.

    Perhaps that is a mistake, but I will never admit it.


  2. Nice. Now, if we could just get the MSM to follow your lead, life would get much better.

  3. > if we could just get the MSM to follow
    > your lead, life would get much better.


    This is a blog.

    Who reads blogs (outside of you, Geno, and Terri)?

  4. My friends have been after me to buy in the Keys for years. They’ve got 8 acres, I think it’s on Sugarloaf. But I didn’t fact check, so don’t hold me to it.
    I recognize Mr Poleczech.

  5. “I recognize Mr Poleczech”.

    Yes, sometimes the most *obvious* things elude us and lead us make assumptive mistakes. What seems to be so real can often be just an illusion — and we err.

    Take my brother Clause, for example. He is the black sheep of the family and has spent half his life incarcerated for bank robbery. He went two times to the penitentiary before he learned how the tellers could always pick him out of a line up.

    He thought it was his acne; so, he was always careful to cover his face. He still got caught.

    Finally, he decided it was his Slavic accent, so he did it blackface and spoke in eubonics. “Gimme yo money, ho,” he said, as he stuck the gun in her face.

    No dice. They still nailed him.

    Finally one of the cops told him. It was the lederhosen.

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