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Sometimes journalists make mistakes.We take fault on the chin, try to bear the shame that comes with it and internally beat ourselves up. We forget that we’re human, and that just like everyone else, there are times when we use bad judgment, when we work too quickly, or when we just don’t understand or ask for help.That’s because we take our mission to an extreme. We are charged with being gatekeepers of information and we have a tremendous responsibility to relay that information to the public. We swear to the code of ethics that bounds us to fair, balanced and accurate journalism and never aspire to practice anything less.To us, this profession and this oath are very important.That being said, this week The Oldham Era is taking a serious error on the chin. We’re bearing the shame and internally beating ourselves up for it. And this time, it’s necessary that our reading public — and those impacted by our error — understand what happened and how we plan to address it.Last week, we ran a story about the presentation of the Oldham County Clerk’s Office and the Oldham County Sheriff’s Office budgets to fiscal court. This story included financial information about the total amount of these budgets, explored projected changes in expenses and discussed the amount these offices would be returning to Oldham County Fiscal Court. One large mistake we made here is by stating that the sheriff’s office and clerk’s office consume 20 percent of the county’s general fund. Because the sheriff’s office and the clerk’s office are fee-generating offices, they are self-sustaining, with only annual spending overseen by the court. These offices return money to the county’s general fund every year through fee generation.We made several mistakes in numbers in this story. For example: We reported that the county clerk’s proposed budget was $2.1 million for 2008, when actually it is $1.66 million. We also reported that the sheriff’s office estimates a return of $10,086 for 2008, when it’s actually estimated that he will return $60,855.But probably the most serious error we made in this story is reporting that the clerk’s office is projecting to turn in 43 percent less in 2007 to the county than it did in 2006, and that the county’s financial officers are investigating why this happened.When you see the number that’s actually being turned in, you’ll understand why this is such an important matter. County Clerk Julie Lentz is estimating she’ll turn in $352,809 for 2007 — a 264 percent increase from the previous year. Naturally, this gives no cause for financial officers to investigate anything with her budget.How did this happen, you ask? We’re still ironing out where the confusion happened. But it basically boils down to the fact that we began covering the story before final budgets were presented, had two sets of information, and confused that information between offices. Reviewing budgets and county financial information is a tough task, and can often be very confusing.But that is no excuse for allowing this information to reach our readers. Not only is it bad for the obvious reason that we’ve given our readers faulty information, we have damaged the county clerk’s reputation and credibility in addition to our own.That is something we never, ever intended to do.We’ve learned a few lessons with this stumble. First, the cautiousness with numbers and the need to ask frequent and persistent questions if we have an issue we don’t thoroughly understand is of utmost importance. Double-checking, triple-checking, even quadruple-checking is necessary, even if it’s painful for us and for those having to answer our questions. Our reporting and editing process will include this step each and every time.Second, we didn’t really go after the story we should have gone after. We tried to report to our readers what the numbers were, instead of what they said: a 264 percent increase in returned funds to the county is one heck of an improvement, considering the trying financial times our fiscal court finds itself in. How did Julie Lentz find this money? Where were the savings? How will the court use this money? This is the story that would have been more informative to our readers.Finally, and most importantly, we sometimes forget how important these numbers are to the livelihoods of the people who are presenting them. Julie Lentz and Steve Sparrow spent a lot of time preparing these budgets, knowing they would be scrutinized, especially this year, considering the county’s financial situation. These people are elected officials, and information that portrays their work in a negative light, if not accurate, can have detrimental effects on their job in the next four years.We cannot express how deeply sorry we are for having made this error, and how committed we are to making sure it does not happen again. It’s my goal for our readers, and our sources, to understand our commitment to quality journalism — remembering, always, that journalists sometimes make unintentional mistakes. It’s happened to the best of us.I hope you can remember that as well.