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Column: Errors have consequences


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It was the fall of 1987, and I was playing defensive cornerback against HHC rival Madison. The call came in from the sideline for man coverage, and we broke the huddle. I moved out to the sideline and prepared to jam the receiver toward the sideline.

So far so good. The receiver came off the line, and I met him with a clash, and he careened toward the sideline. I then went step for step with him as the apparent pass play started to take shape.

Soon I heard the calls from my teammates, “Ball, ball, ball!” To defensive backs, those are our favorite words; time for a pick! I started to turn my head to locate the ball and then slipped on the loose turf.

I could only watch as the perfectly thrown ball landed in the hands of the Madison receiver as he headed into the end zone for a score.

Dejectedly, I ran over to the sideline expecting the worst from my teammates and coaches.

To this day, I can remember the exchange between coach Larry “Shooky” Shook and me following the game. Shooky looked me right in the eye and asked me what happened.

I said, “Coach, I slipped.”

Shooky then gave me the response that countless DB’s at East received from him over the years. “Chuckie, you didn’t slip, you lost your footing.”

You see, slipping is an accident — not your fault — a way to deflect responsibility and so on. Losing your footing is making a choice not to be prepared for the conditions at hand coupled with poor execution.

The only thing that would have made that mistake worse would have been for me to utter the words, “My bad Coach.” And yes, I made that mistake, too. I thought Shooky was going to take my head off.

I have to tell all of you that those words have been on my mind a lot lately. We’ve had a tough few weeks here at The Republic regarding the number of errors appearing in our newspaper. These errors have real consequences.

They affect people’s lives here in Columbus in a very direct way. These people are our neighbors, friends and business colleagues.

As I watched the incorrect photo of Dr. David Thompson run in our announcement of his new position as chief of staff at Columbus Regional Hospital, I cringed and knew this was no small mistake.

We then managed to incorrectly identify Karen Wetherald’s husband in our story on her announcement as the new transportation chief at Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. To make matters worse, we told our readers her father-in-law, Tom Sr., was her husband.

I won’t attempt to give you excuses on how this can happen. We’ve received letters and phone calls reminding us of how these kinds of mistakes harm our credibility. I couldn’t agree more; it does.

It is when these kinds of things happen I’m reminded of Coach Shook’s exchange on the sideline that night in Madison. We didn’t slip; we executed poorly.

We know there will be times when we do make mistakes; we will own up to them. Most importantly, you have our commitment that we will do all it takes to rectify these ongoing issues. You deserve no less.

Chuck Wells is the publisher for The Republic. He can be reached at  379-5606 or cwells@therepublic.com.

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