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Monday, October 15, 2012

No one’s perfect

Ruth Platner’s recent Westerly Sun op-ed accusing Progressive Charlestown of spreading “vicious lies” has made us belatedly realize that we’ve never formally posted our correction policy.

By the Progressive Charlestown editors

We here at Progressive Charlestown take our journalistic responsibility to get our facts right very seriously, and we work hard to do the research and get every story right. But we’re not perfect and don’t always have access to all the information we need—indeed, documents are sometimes withheld from us or notice is not given about meetings—and so occasionally we make a mistake. We usually have to wait the legal maximum 10 business days to get documents from Town Hall that we are entitled to receive, which impedes our ability to deliver timely news.

Our policy, like that of any responsible, professional publication, has always been to correct errors as soon as we learn of them and are able to confirm the correct information.

Indeed, regular Progressive Charlestown readers know that we have always responded to reports of factual errors, received via comments, email, or other means, by correcting the appropriate story along with a notice to the reader explaining what was corrected and why, such as the two stories we recently reposted (here and here) in response to Planning Commissar Ruth Platner’s complaint that we erroneously ascribed the hefty tax break she and her husband Cliff Vanover get on their farm to the Farm, Forest, and Open Space tax exemption program when instead they have a deed restriction on their property that requires them to farm it. The end result, of course, is the same either way: a hefty tax break.

In fact, we’ve also published two stories where we correctly described the Platner-Vanover tax break (here and here), so for those who are keeping score, we’re 2 for 2 on this one.

And even when we’re not wrong but new information comes to light after we’ve posted a story, we update stories as well.

So if you spot a mistake, be sure to pull our chain by sending an email to That will get the error corrected faster than if you wait 11 months and then send a letter to The Westerly Sun rather than us.

Caveat: This policy applies only to actual facts. Differences of opinion or interpretation are not facts, and we stand on our opinions and interpretations unless and until new information causes us to rethink them.