An Apology for an Error, and a Word About Opportunism


Drummers sing as people gather around during a remembrance service for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind Monday, August 28, 2017, at Mickelson Park in Fargo. Dave Wallis / The Forum

In my Sunday column, which was about how we all get along a lot better than the news entertainment industry would like you to think, I made a truly unfortunate error.

I made reference to the Fargo/Moorhead community uniting behind the family of Savanna Greywind, only instead of Savanna I wrote Samantha. I made the mistake, and my editors missed it too. My next column, which publishes tomorrow, contains a correction and an apology for that error. I just finished writing it this morning, and had intended to address the mistake here on the blog this afternoon.

Except former Forum columnist James Ferragut beat me to the punch. He says the error was “unforgivable.”

Though I don’t remember anyone asking him for forgiveness.

An excerpt from his letter to the Forum:

What you’ve shown me in your attempt at transparency is that you are a repulsive, opportunist who attempted to hook your “brand” on the backs of a family’s heartbreaking human tragedy. I can’t think of a more careless, hurtful, insulting act of journalism.

I don’t know if your ego will allow you to feel regret for this unassailable, egregious “mistake” or not. I hope you’ll have the guts to own up to this in the form of mea culpa. And I do hope the the LaFontaine-Greywind family, in their mourning, will have the grace to forgive you. I can’t.

I should note that my original column was in praise of unity. I made a very short reference to Greywind’s tragic murder. This was not opportunism. This was me using topical events to support a a point about our society.

That it’s not nearly so divided as some would like us to think.

I make no excuses for the error, other than to say that it was an honest one. No sleight was intended. People who know me personally are familiar with this quirk I have about getting names wrong. But, again, that’s no excuse. I will accept all of the criticism I have coming for making that error.

But to suggest without evidence that I intended something untoward in making the mistake, or that I had self-serving motives, I take exception to that. In fact I would argue that Mr. Ferragut – who apparently has never made a typo or error in his writing – is himself guilty of opportunism. When presented with an unfortunate, but very small, error made by someone whose politics he dislikes he chose to blow it up into something it is not.

I suppose as a way to besmirch my reputation and score political points.

Which, funny enough, speaks to the point I was making in my column.

The real world isn’t nearly divided as it appears when seen through the lens of the opinion page.

I hope, the next time Mr. Ferragut is guilty of a typo or other picayune error, his critics show more grace than he has.