published Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Wiedmer: Apologies to Davidson's coach for mishearing

There is nothing more important than accuracy in the newspaper business. If the public can't trust what we report, we can't and shouldn't stay in business.

And to that end, most of us work extremely hard every day to make sure we present the facts rather than our own version of them when covering the news.

But on Thursday night I got one fact very, very wrong as I wrote my column on Davidson's 64-63 victory over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga at McKenzie Arena.

Because I failed to hear the word "only" in a statement by Wildcats coach Bob McKillop, I completely misrepresented his remarks concerning UTC coach John Shulman's defensive strategy.

As McKillop dissected the game, he said of the Mocs' plan to double-team the Wildcats' post players, "Tactically, it's not only smart, but it was very well executed."

Only that's not what I heard. His voice raspy from two hours of screaming instructions to his players over a raucous Mocs crowd, I thought McKillop said, "Tactically, I'm not going to call it smart, but it was very well executed."

Surprised by that, I twice listened to a digital audio recording made a few feet from the coach to make certain he'd uttered those words. Others heard the tape and agreed.

But on Friday morning a phone call from Davidson's sports information department indicated that the North Carolina school was equally certain that I'd gotten it wrong. Davidson sent along its own video recording of the news conference as proof.

To my great surprise and overwhelming embarrassment, that videotape confirms their contention, as does a companion tape taken by UTC.

If I could undo the wrong of criticizing McKillop for this particular statement, I would. But other than getting my hearing checked, all I can do is apologize as profusely as possible and promise to listen far more carefully in the future to every single word in a quote, because every single word in any quote is equally important.

So to Coach McKilliop -- both the dean of Southern Conference coaches and the winningest coach in league history -- I say as sincerely and humbly as possible that I am so, so sorry for this mistake. It was all mine and I take complete responsibility for it.

I unfairly characterized statements meant to praise Coach Shulman as somehow taking a shot at his game plan, when nothing could have been further from the truth.

Again, we try to never misrepresent the facts in this newspaper, and for the most part we succeed. But I obviously didn't do that on this occasion, and other than again apologizing to Coach McKillop, his team, Davidson College and Wildcat fans everywhere, I can only promise that I will try as hard as possible to never let this happen again.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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