Jacksonville Daily Progress
Verify. Verify. Verify.
This was the most consistent journalism principle taught to me my first semester at Tarleton State University in Stephenville. It was imparted to me by Mr. Jerry Weatherby, my very first journalism instructor.
A Vietnam military veteran, Mr. Weatherby was very old-school in his approach to journalism instruction.
For instance, he insisted his students learn the editing marks editors used to place on “old school” stories typed on paper, despite the fact his students were mostly working on computers and couldn't exactly scribble these marks on their screens.
As expected, Mr. Weatherby drilled and drilled his students on the basic “who, what, when, where, why and how” that was required in our stories.
However – God bless him – his strongest emphasis on all was on verifying every last drop of information in our stories. Reviewing that data over and over again to make sure it was all absolutely, positively, correct.
Verify. Verify. Verify.
Verification, Mr. Weatherby constantly posited, is always necessary – especially when dealing with news tips. Tips tend to come to reporters from sources they really don't know that well. Many tips are often submitted to the newspaper anonymously. Unless thoroughly examined and verified, they could lead to trouble in the form of incorrect news stories.
Recently I received an emailed tip asking me to look into a couple of alleged business closings in Jacksonville — the local custom furniture company Ambienti and the Jacksonville copper products company Ezo.
As far as the Ambienti claim is concerned, there was no immediate contact information available.
So I searched online for pertinent phone numbers and addresses. I called the company's listed phone number but discovered it was disconnected. I could not find a number for listed President Todd Cranfill in the local area code.
So I tried examining the company's webpage. No luck. One cursory glance indicated the company's webpage account had been suspended.
I did discover in published company literature that at one point the 135,000 square foot company – known for its production of lumber and wood products – earned as much s $8 million in revenue a year.
After I completed all the legwork I could by computer, I climbed into my car and drove to the listed address of the business at 440 Frankston Street in Jacksonville.
There, I found a largely unmowed area surrounding the company building. One of the windows on the property was broken, as if by either a fist or a softball.
I spotted a grey 2007 Toyota Camry parked to the far right of the building – indicating to me that someone was there and working inside an office. So I walked up and knocked.
The person who answered identified was Todd Cranfill himself. I identified myself, gave Cranfill a business card, and asked the status of the company.
Cranfill responded that the company – which at one point employed as many as 200 people according to its literature – had closed. But company representatives were looking to sell it to any interested party.
“We're looking for a buyer and we'll probably have that website back up this week,” he said. (As of Wednesday it was still suspended.)
In regard to the Ezo company, I managed to reach a representative named Cory Fowler on the cell phone listed on the company's website.
Mr. Fowler identified himself as the company's new sales manager and informed me the company was expected to remain open.
“We're going to have a reduction in work force by the end of the year, but that's it,” Fowler said.
(Ezo employs as much as 10 people, according to its literature.)
So, bottom line: Verify, verify, verify turned out to once again be very good advice. Half of the aforementioned news tip turned out to be true – sort of. Ambienti is closed, but might not be for very long if the company is sold at a quick pace.
Don't get me wrong: I do appreciate news tips, as long as tipsters realize I am going to verify each and every syllable sent my way.
Incidentally, a hearty, heartfelt, “thank you” (long, long overdue) goes out to Mr. Jerry Weatherby, wherever he is today, for his polite-but-stoic insistence on journalism excellence.
Reporter Ben Tinsley can be contacted by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 903-586-2236. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/bentinsley or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.