I’ve always been taught that when you make a mistake, you need to own up to it.
Yesterday, I made a mistake, a huge mistake.
In yesterday’s paper, I wrote an article about a Newburyport native named Cate Seely who is running the Boston Marathon for the third time this year after not being able to finish last year due to the bombings. In the article, I wrote that her mother had recently died of breast cancer. That was not correct, she did contract breast cancer, but she beat the disease and is still alive today.
The error came about as a result of a misunderstanding on my part. During my conversation with Cate last week, she told me that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer last fall and that it was thankfully a short battle. Rather than ask her to clarify whether she meant that her mother had survived or passed away, I violated one of the most basic tenants of journalism and made an assumption. For that, the blame for the error belongs squarely on my shoulders.
When I was informed of the error, I called both Cate and her mother Ginny to apologize. While they were understandably upset, they were both gracious and understanding about the situation, and for that I’m thankful, considering they could have told me to take a hike and been totally justified in doing so.
That being said, I don’t pretend to expect that a phone call should make up for such an egregious error. The Seely family deserves more than an apology and a short correction at the bottom of the Opinion page, so allow me the opportunity to set the record straight.
Ginny Seely is an RN at Anna Jaques Hospital, where she has worked for more than eight years as a quality specialist in the hospital’s quality department. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last September, and shortly afterwards she underwent surgery and completed six and a half weeks of daily radiation treatment.