Friday, August 31, 2007
"There she is," one of my coworkers said. "Talia, did you write this story?"
The story, was a throwaway brief I wrote after being in court for more than 2 hours the morning prior. The case I'd been there for had been rescheduled, but that info didn't come out until after I'd already waited around.
"Yeah, why," I mutter.
"Bob is on the phone," said the office assistant.
I walked to my desk as my coworker grabbed a copy of today's edition for me to read. I didn't bother to look at it before I picked up the phone.
Bob didn't mince words.
"Are you going to print a retraction," he asked. "Because that story is false. I was never supposed to be in court yesterday. That date had been rescheduled weeks ago."
I sighed and turned to the story.
"Well, sir, I was there yesterday," I began. "Your name was on the trial calendar and they called your name twice. Additionally, a lawyer who said he was speaking on your behalf told the court that you were supposed to meet him in the courtroom. That you would be there. After we waited a while, I saw the lawyer preparing to leave and asked him what was going on. That's when he told me the date was rescheduled for October."
He told me that was untrue. That there was no one there representing him.
"This article reads like I'm a criminal," he said. "Like I intentionally disobeyed the court. It's damning."
Maybe, I said. But it's also true.
"Bob, I was there," I said. "I wrote what I saw. I didn't write it to be mean or to be unfair. But the court apparently expected you to be there because they continued to ask for you a number of times. I apologize I didn't get the lawyer's name, but there was someone there who said he was waiting for you."
I denied another request for a retraction before he hung up. I picked up the paper and read the article. The copy desk had taken out my explainer about the unnamed lawyer speaking on Bob's behalf. But the story still read true.
But in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think that I should have done more reporting. I should have gotten that lawyers name. I should have asked him when and why they decided to continue the proceedings. I should have called Bob for a comment as to why he didn't show up (though he changed his phone number). I should have done more.
Next time, I will.continue...