Public Editor

January 10, 2014

One word in Maryville transcript makes a big difference

In astory that ran Oct. 18, a transcription from a recording Melinda Coleman of Maryville, Mo. had made while talking with Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert L. Rice changed a “me” to a “you.” In this case, that’s a difference worth noting in a correction.

In tomorrow’s print edition, readers will see a real rarity: A correction to a story that ran months ago, on Oct. 18. But it’s necessary, in my opinion.

The story was about audio tapes Melinda Coleman of Maryville, Mo. had made

while talking with Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert L. Rice near the end of May 2012 about her daughter’s alleged sexual assault.

During the conversation, Rice told Coleman: “You haven’t missed a deposition at all. The only deposition was this one, and that was where it was explained to me that you were claiming the Fifth.”

However, in the version originally published, the last sentence read, “The only deposition was this one, and that was where it was explained to you that you were claiming the Fifth.” So the “me” was inadvertently transcribed as “you.”

Small words — big difference.

As originally published, it sounds as if Rice was saying Coleman had been

told

to plead the Fifth, and it would be understandable if someone inferred that he meant he was the one recommending that action.

But in reality, he was saying he was informed in the deposition that she planned to take the Fifth.

Whenever there’s a question of whether a detail is too small, I almost always err on the side of going ahead with the correction. The bottom line for me is whether the mistake fundamentally alters the meaning readers take from what was published. This one qualifies, in my opinion, and The Star’s senior editors agreed. The online version has been changed to reflect the accurate transcription.

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