This morning, while working on a breaking news story, I made at least two mistakes. Here’s what happened, as far as I’ve been able to reconstruct it:
As reported, a high-speed chase that originated in Fortuna turned into a manhunt when a suspect fled into the woods near Humboldt Hill. Around 9:35 a.m., in the midst of this search, an officer over the scanner identified Ronald Payton as a suspect in another crime. Payton was later ruled out as a suspect in that incident and, by all accounts, had nothing to do with any of today’s events.
While attempting to review the scanner audio, I unknowingly backtracked by more than 12 minutes, arriving at a point in the recording where an officer was reading the penal codes for which another man is on felony probation. In my haste to report the unfolding events of the manhunt, I mistakenly conflated Mr. Payton with these unrelated felony probation charges as well as the manhunt. In publishing the information as I misunderstood it, I effectively accused Mr. Payton of crimes for which he was never a suspect.
The purpose of this post is not only to correct the record but also to apologize — first and foremost to Mr. Payton, personally, but also to Outpost readers. Breaking news reporting should be done with the utmost care and concern for accuracy, and it’s hard to imagine messing up worse than I did today. I consider this a learning experience and will endeavor never to repeat the errors I made today.