I’m sorry if you find this misleading. I don’t have a good photo to go with the “Sound Off” theme, so I picked an 1890s woodcut that I know very little about other than what’s listed underneath. If you’re offended by this bait-and-switch (tongue in cheek) technique, write a letter to “Sound Off.” Just kidding, of course.

I generally do not read “Sound Off” columns. As a newspaper editor, I never liked anonymous rants. We would not withhold writers’ names at most of the newspapers I edited, but I understand why some editors do it.

The Princeton Times-Republic’s “Sound Off” is even more of a turn-off for me because it so often involves the same letter writers, regurgitating the political propaganda they’ve gleaned from their favorite 24-hour news channel, whether it be CNN, Fox, TMZ or even less credible sources. One letter a month from each of the regulars would be sufficient, in my humble opinion.

But I digress. My blog was mentioned favorably in the “Sound Off” column in the June 27 edition, which drew an unfavorable response the following week. Another pet peeve about “Sound Off” – endless silly back-and-forth squabbles.

Here’s the item:

I find several of the writer’s comments misleading, but in the interest of fairness, I’m keeping my response, which I will not send to the newspaper, to the 200-word “Sound Off” limit:

Facts aren’t fluid

The author says I’ve “bashed” people. Not so. I’ve bashed inaccuracies – one in the national historic district report, several in the state historic property inventory and nine so far in the city’s historic walking tour. I’ve also corrected errors found in the quasquicentennial booklet and Elaine Reetz’s works of the 1970s.

The writer says history is fluid. It is, but facts are not. All of the corrections listed above are the result of fact-checking. No interpretation. I’ve documented corrections and, when possible, identified the source.

The tour researchers did their best, but the information is wrong. Mary Swed can speak for herself, but I am confident the journalists who worked with her on the quasquicentennial book would all say, “If we got something wrong, it should be corrected!”

The blog drew more than 2,000 page views in one month, so there are people who care about getting history right. Apathy and inertia by those who could correct the errors is what frustrates me.

I am happy the owner is satisfied with his plaque. Perhaps it doesn’t contain an error. But if it’s incorrect, and the owner is still happy with it, what does that say about our commitment to local history?

Perhaps it’s the journalism training in me, but when you make an error, the best course of action is admit it, correct it and move on.

And now moving on: Don’t be surprised if you see some of our blog business cards popping up in the community. Hopefully we will find more people interested in discussing the early days of Princeton! The photo, which I’ve posted previously on the Facebook page I frequent and is in this site’s Old Princeton photo gallery, is of the Nickodem Bros. store at the southeast corner of Water and Pearl streets in the early 1900s. I cannot identify the people in the photo. My grandmother, Pauline “Polly” (Nickodem) Bartel, worked at the store owned by her father and uncle.

Leave a Reply