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    Saturday, July 20, 2024

    A loyal reader’s misunderstood text ‘nailed’ technology and human shortcomings

    Bill Donovan of Waterford, a retired teacher, coach and athletic director also known as “Mr. Ocean Beach” and longtime local high school sports announcer, is a loyal reader of The Day whose opinions we value. He often compliments our coverage of news and sports and occasionally texts or calls when he thinks we screwed up.

    Donovan texted Tuesday morning to comment on two stories we published about East Lyme Police Chief Michael Finkelstein’s domestic violence case. Reporter Greg Smith and photographer Sarah Gordon covered Finkelstein’s court appearance Monday in Middletown. Day Staffer Elizabeth Regan reported the latest news about an investigation into how the Finkelstein case had been handled by East Lyme Police.

    Donovan wrote, “Karen: Articles read like both Greg Smith and Elizabeth Regan mailed it re: EL Chief. Bill.”

    I read the text before starting my car to head to the office. It looked like Donovan implied the two reporters had “mailed it in,” or done a less than thorough job.

    It was a classic case of poor communication via text. I dictated a response and told Siri to send it as I pulled out of the driveway.

    “Hi Bill. I am not sure what you mean. Greg provided color from inside the quart room as well as very good detail about the charges. Elizabeth is following the town angle. What more would you have liked to see and what do you think should be the follow up? Because of course we are working on a follow-up. We also had exclusive and professional still photographs of the court appearance.”

    In addition to containing a misspelled word ― Siri had heard “quart” instead of “court” ― my text may have sounded more defensive than necessary. Bill is always quick to praise our work, so when he’s critical, he deserves our full attention and respect.

    Donovan quickly responded, “I meant they did very well! Also the two photos. Bill.”

    He followed that with, “Should have read nailed it not mailed it. Sorry.” And, “I meant to text you in support of what they wrote not to complain.”

    He was trying to bolster The Day and I had been convinced he was criticizing our coverage.

    Donovan mentioned that phones have their own way of spelling things and noted that my text to him had also contained a mistake. Tone can often be misunderstood in texts too.

    Technology, like people, is imperfect.

    My exchange with Donovan served as a reminder to ensure I fully understand what someone is saying before responding. To appreciate those who offer feedback, whether it’s complimentary or critical. And to ask a follow-up question before jumping to the wrong conclusion.

    On Friday, I called Donovan to tell him about this column. He answered the phone and said, “You nailed it again,” referring to Smith and Regan’s latest stories about the Finkelstein case.

    We appreciate Donovan, and all our readers. We like to hear from you, even when we might not like what we hear.

    This is the opinion of Karen Florin, managing editor. Reach her at k.florin@theday.com or (860) 701-4217.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.