True and Accurate

One of my favorite movies, Absence of Malice, explores the contrast between things that are true and things that are accurate. 

Recently, The New York Times reported that in one year, it made approximately 3,500 errors in the print edition of its daily newspaper. It went on to report that, nationally, 60% of all newspaper articles contain at least one error or inaccuracy, but only 2% of these mistakes are ever corrected in the form of a printed retraction. 

In the film Absence of Malice, Paul Newman plays a character falsely accused by a major metropolitan newspaper. He confronts the reporter by saying, “You don’t print the truth.  You just print accurately what some guy said.” The words of Mr. Newman’s character ring true today.

When you read that “a highly-placed source stated,” this brings a number of variables into play. First, who does the reporter believe constitutes a highly-placed source, and are they, indeed, highly placed? Secondly, did the reporter convey the quote accurately, and did the newspaper print it properly? And third, did the person quoted have any idea what they were talking about.

When you read words in a newspaper, magazine, or online publication—including these words—you need to take them as an indicator or direction to explore further and not as an absolute fact. 

Recently, I heard one of the candidates running for President say, “America can be energy independent within a decade.” On the same day, a Whitehouse spokesperson said, “America uses 20% of the world’s oil but produces only 2%, and we can never be energy independent through fossil fuel.” This begs the questions:  Are both statements accurate; is either accurate; and where does the truth really lie? 

It’s difficult to judge the viability of someone’s words until you understand their motive and perspective. One person might honestly tell you it’s the hottest summer in 10 years. Another might tell you it’s the coolest summer ever. They both might be experiencing the same weather, and they both might be accurate or in error. If the first person was reporting from Boston and the second from Phoenix, they might both be telling the truth as they understand it and actually be correct. Before you judge anyone’s words, you must know their perspective, their motives, and what they mean by what they say. 

I love my friends, my family, my country, my city, the St. Louis Cardinals, and hot dogs. But not in the same way, to the same extent, and for the same reason. 

As you go through your day today, realize you can only make good decisions with good information. Be sure its reliable, dependable, and accurate before you leap.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082; by e-mail at Jim@JimStovall.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimstovallauthor.

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One Response to True and Accurate

  1. Paul Ivice July 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    You say: Recently, I heard one of the candidates running for President say, “America can be energy independent within a decade.” On the same day, a Whitehouse spokesperson said, “America uses 20% of the world’s oil but produces only 2%, and we can never be energy independent through fossil fuel.” This begs the questions: Are both statements accurate; is either accurate; and where does the truth really lie?

    These are poor examples because both are statements of opinion, not fact, and opinions can never be accurate on their face.

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