Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Check the facts


I just read a book authored by a guy who claims to have been an AP reporter.

The story takes place in New York City and in Sarasota Florida.

I know almost nothing about New York City, but I lived in Sarasota for several years; I know Bradenton (just north of Sarasota), Pinellas (Clearwater, St. Petersburg), and some parts of Hillsborough (Tampa) counties.

Most – 99 percent – of what was written about Sarasota was wrong,

I can understand why the author no longer works as an AP reporter.

Worse, the book’s publisher apparently lacks a fact checker to catch the author’s wild imaginings. Was the author EVER in Sarasota? Doubtful.

While there IS a Starbucks at Sarasota-Bradenton International (it has Customs) there is no TGIF restaurant nor is there a shark tank, hammerhead or other variety as the author wrote. A check of SRQ’s Web site would have saved the author and publisher’s fact checkers some embarrassment.

Tamiami Trail, the section of U.S. 41 that runs from TAmpa to MIAMI (ergo the name) is identified as “Route 45”. I suspect the author depended on Wikipedia. There IS a FL 45 that in places shares pavement with U.S. 41, but in Sarasota, it strictly is U.S. 41. A look at any mapping software (e.g., Mapquest) would belie FL 45 as the Tamiami Trail. Every Cracker knows that.

The author has his heroine heading east into a tacky neighborhood. Driving south from the airport and past the Ringling Museum the first road, the only road in Sarasota County heading west to Longboat Key, the heroine’s destination, is the John Ringling Causeway, FL 789. The road passes by the Sarasota Yacht Club and Plymouth Harbor retirement high rise on one side and a marina for some rather fancy boats on the other. Hardly tacky. (The SYC and Plymouth Harbor both have Web sites the author and fact checker could have utilized.) The factless author also had the Intercostal Waterway on Florida's Gulf coast - in fact, it is on Florida's Atlantic coast, information easily available on the WWW. An aside for those who enjoy trivia: Sarasota is the second richest county in Florida, surpassed only by Palm Beach County, but unlike Palm Beach County, Sarasota’s is “old” money.

But, hey, except for really sloppy fact checking, it was a pretty good yarn. ‘Course those inaccuracies kept me from fully “getting into” the story. Reporter, indeed.

So much for the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.”

How does a murder mystery writer’s laziness relate to risk management?


  • Who controls the budget for the risk management program? Usually one or more Very Senior Executives.
  • Who reads – is supposed to read - the practitioner’s reports? Everyone, including those Very Senior Executives, Functional Unit Managers, and Critical Personnel (e.g., the folks in the trenches).
  • Possibly casual (temporary) staff who may be called in to help restore the organization or even to maintain the organization’s minimum level of service, people who will depend heavily on the documentation prepared by, or for, the practitioner.

If the practitioner’s report contains factual errors then the entire document is suspect. If the document is suspect, the plan is suspect. If the plan is suspect, then the practitioner is suspect.

The errors in question are not just typographical, although more than a few besmirch the practitioner’s image; the errors are factual errors usually caused by ignorance and the most often reason for ignorance is laziness.

Grammatical errors also can, and often do, embarrass a practitioner as well as lower the practitioner’s esteem in the eyes of client.

The majority of the contents of a practitioner’s report should be information provided by, and reviewed by, subject matter experts, both within the organization and without (e.g., local emergency services, weather bureau, weather history).

For all that, the practitioner must lead the program’s development (read “ask the right questions”) and accurately record the subject matter experts’ comments.

A poorly, sloppily prepared document could endanger the program and that, in turn, could endanger the client’s organization, and that includes personnel.

Laziness can be expensive.

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