In this space a week ago, an attempt was made to illustrate that times gone by never really go away.
Explorer bound files from 10 years ago, 1999, provided the material, easily identifying the stories at the end of the 1990s, and showing how some of them carry forward a decade later. Oro Valley's desire to count everyone in the upcoming Census. The town's eye on state trust land to the north. Disagreements over water between Marana and Tucson.
It was all so right, so reinforcing, save for one thing. Operator error. Instead of a reference to "the last four issues of 1999," this writer wrote "the last four issues of 2009." Ugh! Boo-boo. Big mistake. Duhhh-uh! It falls into the category of "a story is no better than its dumbest mistake," a phrase used by a long-ago editor. Or, another newspaper standard, "everyone needs an editor."
We bring up the mistake in this first editorial comment of the new decade to reveal … what, exactly. Incompetence? Maybe, but the errors are always of enthusiasm rather than laziness. Imperfection? Sure. Even the best hitters make an out seven times out of 10. Self-deprecation? There's plenty of stuff to choose among.
One of the great peculiarities of the newspaper business is that we make mistakes, like humans do, then print thousands of copies, and leave them on doorsteps throughout our readerships for everyone to read, hoping they won't find their way to Leno. That happened once, to this writer, a newspaper mistake shown on late-night television. Something to do with a typo regarding the word "angus," as in the beef. You want to feel a pit in your stomach? Recognize the headline on a card Jay Leno is about to read. All you can do is laugh it off.
Last week's mistake was brought to our attention by … no one. No one on the staff, no one who reads this weekly commentary (and we thank you for that). It's at once surprising, and concerning, this absence of response. In a newspaper career going back 32 years now, with several stops in small newspaper markets, this particular newspaper job is the most insulated from the public. We don't hear or read enough from you, dear reader. There's no need for late-night grocery runs, or trips out of town simply to get away from the work.
We'd like to read and hear more from you, whatever's on your mind. While kindness and understanding are appreciated, skin around here is thicker than an old grapefruit rind, so don't fret about being offensive. No one's more critical of our work than we are. We've thought of just about every remark, or heard it somewhere along the way. Say or write what you please.
As a New Year and decade get going, we'd solicit your opinions on what this newspaper ought to be doing. Explorer managers have been asked to articulate three goals for 2010, three things they'd like to get accomplished in their departments. We endeavor to ask the same from you, for us, with regard to our news product. What three things would you like to see The Explorer do, or not do, in a new decade? More sports, or less? UofA? A food column? Calendars, movie guides … do you use them? Do you care about the stars, worthy of a monthly column? School coverage, or county supervisors? More diverse opinion writing, or less of that altogether? Franzi and Safier in a wrestle-off? More on the Web, or do you care?
Your opinions are welcome, this day and every day, 1999, 2009 or whatever the year may be. The e-mail address is email@example.com.
Have a terrific 2010. Thanks for reading. We truly do appreciate it.
(the middle name is Paul, by the way.)