Oscar ‘oops’ hits a nerve in the newsroom

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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My husband and I sat bleary-eyed on the couch watching the Oscars Sunday night after an afternoon of Youth Fair prep with the kids.

I’m not even sure why we were glued to the TV, other than we were too tired to move. After all, I had seen only one Best Picture nominee and didn’t have a personal stake in the outcome. Yet, we watched.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

Perhaps I was just deliriously exhausted, but I felt happy for Emma Stone, who won Best Actress for her role in “La La Land,” and Casey Affleck, awarded Best Actor for his part in “Manchester by the Sea.” We started to turn the TV off but decided, what the heck, we’ve been up this long, let’s see who wins Best Picture.

After an odd exchange between Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, “La La Land” was announced as the winner.

Great. Good for them.

We turned the TV off.

We retreated to the bedroom and turned that television on while we got ready for bed. No more than 5 minutes had passed, but by then, the “La La Land” cast looked dejected and the movie’s producer was announcing that “Moonlight” had, in fact, won Best Picture.

There was general confusion on stage as both casts milled about and everyone tried to figure out what to do, all while wondering how in the world the mistake occurred.

A new, brief round of acceptance speeches started, and host Jimmy Kimmel finally closed the show, albeit a bit awkwardly.

I cringed for everyone involved. Making a mistake is upsetting enough, but to do so on a public stage is nauseating. By Tuesday morning, news agencies reported a Pricewaterhouse Coopers accountant had handed the wrong envelope to Beatty.

My heart hurt for him. This might seem strange since I had no stake in the awards and have only been to the movies a handful of times this year.

But on-the-job mistakes are the worst, especially when your job is in the public eye. When most people make a mistake at work, no one outside of their boss and a co-worker or two know.

When you make a mistake at the Oscars, the world knows. When you make a mistake in this newspaper, you’ve embarrassed yourself in front of all of Wise County.

Wise County is small potatoes compared to the whole, entire world, but you know what I mean: the mistake is out there for everyone to see and talk about. There’s no keeping it a secret. And to make matters worse, it’s preserved in the newspaper, right there in black-and-white, for all of history.

We strive at the Messenger to uphold the highest standards of accuracy and attention to detail, but alas, we’re human and make mistakes in print from time to time. But please know that we hate it.

There is no hierarchy of mistakes either. Whether it’s a misspelled name, a busted headline or a wrong page number, they are equally painful and embarrassing. There are a few mistakes that still make my stomach churn to think about. They haunt you, but I will say, like most in life, you don’t make that same mistake again.

That being said, despite what some people assume, we put great thought into our stories and give careful consideration to the content of the paper. We want to serve Wise County readers and constantly strive to do a better job than the day before. Making mistakes simply isn’t an option.

I guess the good thing about this business is, no matter the mistake, there’s another issue coming, a chance for redemption. That next edition doesn’t heal the wound from the previous mistake, but it’s an opportunity to be better.

Unfortunately, the Oscars is an annual event, and 12 months is a long time to wait for the next envelope.

Kristen Tribe is editor of the Wise County Messenger.

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