Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Most Lighthouses?

Earlier this summer in a story from Madison, WI's The Capital Times, Mary Bergin wrote about Door County, WI's lighthouses. According to the story, the cities of Racine and Sturgeon Bay were conducting a contest for local artists. Nearly 100 miniature lighthouses were decorated at the whim of the artists and placed throughout the two cities as a tourist attraction.
Within the story, Ms. Bergin casually comments that Door County has more lighthouses than any other county in the nation. This is a false claim which has been spread by Door County, itself, for a number of years and has been irresponsibly echoed by a number of tourist sites throughout the region.
According to Door County, their 10 lighthouses are more than any other county's grand total. Upon reading her article, I took exception to this misstatement, (see comments section at the bottom of the story, provided by the previous link), and brought to her attention that Barnstable County Ma., (which is essentially Cape Cod), has 15 Lighthouses, itself, and makes the Door County claim false.
My comment was posted on July 28th, and though it remained on the web page, no acknowledgement was ever made to me or anyone at The Cape Cod It was nearly forgotten, passed off by me as just the usual attempt of a tourist area newspaper doing anything to promote its area, until this past weekend when, among our regular web news updates, we received one which included a follow-up story to Ms. Bergin's previous article.
It seems my comment may have struck a chord, as Ms. Bergin's new article focused on whether or not Door County's claim of having the most lighthouses was really factual.
Although my comment was alluded to in the follow-up article, and I commend Ms. Bergin for seeking the truth, I do take umbrage in how, as a journalist, she went about that.
The first rule of journalism is "get the facts correct". Obviously, in her initial article, she didn't ever think to check on Door County's claim, only to mimic the status quo of their claims, and jump on the county's coattails, as a number of other tourist sites have done. Having had it brought to her attention that the claim was incorrect, you would think that she would attempt to contact the person who has taken her to task, especially one with credentials such as was posted, "Roland Babineau, editor, The Cape Cod's Lighthouse Encyclopedia". Not only did Ms. Bergin not attempt to contact me, even though my contact info was left at the time I posted my comment, but she also made no attempt to contact anyone at The Cape Cod
Now, that may not be a big deal, but if she's going to take the time to research whether or not the claim is true, shouldn't she interview someone other than just the local executive director of the Door County Maritime Museum to get another perspective? Although Executive Director Brian Kelsey admitted that Door County didn't have the most lighthouses, it seems to me that Ms. Bergin didn't use all the information available to her to form the story, she just took the short road and interviewed her local museum director.
If not contacting me for more info on my comment, at least interview any number of other experts on the lighthouse subject, (Terry Pepper, of the (Great Lakes Lighthouse Keeper's Association), or Tim Harrison, Bob Trapani, or Jeremy D'Entremont, (all of the American Lighthouse Foundation), quickly come to mind), who could have given her even more input than most of us in the field. It just seems to me that she could have tried harder and really made an impact with her story, (or perhaps real journalism would be detrimental to a Wisconsin newspaper telling the absolute truth about Door County, Wisconsin, tourist attraction).
Not only did Ms. Bergin not try to contact us here, it appears she didn't even bother to see what The Cape Cod's Lighthouse Encyclopedia even is. If she had done her research, she would have quickly seen that the Lighthouse Encyclopedia isn't a "product" of the Cape Cod, as she wrote. It is a free reference site with information, photos, history, and links to other websites containing information about each U. S. lighthouse, not something we sell, as she intimates.
As I stated earlier, I commend Ms. Bergin on her attempt at getting to the truth, but I wish she really would do a better job of "doing her homework".

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Anonymous Sue said...

Welcome to the world of journalism. I wasn't aware that story had played out like that. It just lowers my opinion of today's so-called reporters even more. For what it's worth, I've been misquoted myself, or even seen printed direct inaccuracies from what I said. And I'm talking about the National Journal as one.

I would like to add your site to my blogroll, at if I may. There are not very many lighthouse related blogs and I'm always excited to find another one.

October 27, 2007 at 3:01 PM  

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