Where were you the day the music died? For those of us of a certain vintage, we may recall Don McLean’s song about that awful day when a plane crash killed rock stars Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson, also known as the Big Bopper. McLean felt rock & roll would never be the same after that tragic loss of life, and he wrote an eight and one-half minute eulogy for it, titled “American Pie” (not to be confused with the movies of that name). Listening to an AM-radio shortened version of that song when I was growing up, I didn’t understand the allusions, but I liked the beat. Listening to it today, I still like the beat, but now I get most of the allusions.
So where were you the day the news died? If music can die, as people and animals and ideas and countries certainly do, why can’t news?
And if it’s not too late, what can be done to revive news’ heart, reinvigorate its soul and postpone its death? Or are we already too late?
I had those troubling thoughts recently after a utility spokesperson contacted me to point out several errors in an article I wrote for one of my journalism clients. I felt awful about my inaccuracies and I worked with the client to fix them as soon as possible.
My errors did not spring from malicious intent. I strive for accuracy in all my work, as I assume nearly all communicators do. Still, despite our best efforts, mistakes happen. Fortunately, my recent ones were easily corrected.
But as I recently listened to “American Pie” and I considered the errors in my article, I thought about the state of journalism in general, specifically what has been called “fake news,” and what it may mean to electric, gas and water providers.