Last week, in my year-end review of Baltimore Banner news coverage, I made a serious mistake – something that cries out for correction.
Near the end of that piece, in a last-minute addition, I took The Banner to task for a Nov. 20 story it published on the Johns Hopkins University’s effort to create an armed police force of 100 officers to patrol its three Baltimore-area campuses. In doing so, I wrote that “The Banner gave no hint of its methodology” in reporting that a surge in campus crime had receded. I also wrote that while The Banner article “suggested that a drop” in the crime rate occurred around Hopkins, it did not say how much it fell.
On both counts I was factually incorrect.
The Banner’s Nov. 20 article contained an explanation of the factors it used in reaching its analysis that, frankly, I dismissed as wonky and less reliable than the data collected and reported on crime in the geographical areas of higher education institutions across the country by the U.S. Department of Education.
For the same reason, I didn’t acknowledge its conclusion about a fall in crime around Hopkins campuses.
While I am entitled to my view on these matters, it was wrong for me to reject out of hand The Banner’s “methodology” and the conclusions the paper’s analysis reached. That was an error in judgment on my part.
Shortly after I signed on as The Banner’s public editor in October, I met with the paper’s staff and told reporters I would discuss with them any concerns I had about their work before making my views public. I told them that in every instance, I would begin by talking to their editor.
But in making the last-minute addition to my year-end review, I talked only to the story’s editor and not the reporters who wrote it.
For this, I owe them a sincere apology and a promise that it won’t happen again.
DeWayne Wickham is the public editor for The Baltimore Banner.