History is hard.
What passes as history is most often written by those with the means to quickly share their view of events with a wide audience. Often that means newspapers.
In 1943, journalist Alan Barth called news “the first rough draft of history,” and even when that draft is about history it still leaves room for error.
Such was the case with errors in two stories in our June/July edition.
In a story about the town of Lantana’s centennial, a comment by local historian Janet DeVries Naughton regarding two of the town’s pioneer settlers was incorrectly transcribed by reporter Ron Hayes. He quoted her as saying that E.R. Bradley had opened several general stores in South Florida. In fact, Naughton said this of M.B. Lyman. Oops, wrong pioneer.
In a story on the founding of Ocean Ridge and Manalapan, the founders of Boynton Beach were referred to as the Byrds. It was Byrd Spilman Dewey who bought the land. Historian Ginger Pedersen pointed out this slip-up.
She also questioned some background material used by our writer — another local historian, Eliot Kleinberg. Kleinberg checked his notes and was unable to confirm past hotel and restaurant interests of George W. Harvey, who purchased the Boynton Hotel. Oops, misplaced notes.
These may seem like small items to most readers, but to the local historians dedicated to chronicling our communities, they are details that require correction.
We understand, and have done so in our online copy, but the print version will be archived with these errors. Only this column will stand as a correction. Hopefully future researchers will find both the original and the correction.
Historical oversights present another challenge for newspapers writing about local history.
Another local historian, Lori Durante, graciously pointed out our oversight of the Black and Bahamian workers who settled in Lantana as they labored to bring Henry Flagler’s railroad through the area and were later “relocated” to a segregated neighborhood.
The history of these often forgotten pioneers — many of whom were formerly enslaved or descendants of enslaved people — is an interesting one that reminds us of the prejudicial Jim Crow laws active here during those post-Civil War years.
So, as The Coastal Star celebrates local history this summer, we take our role in the interpretation and perpetuation of history seriously. We are very aware that even simple errors are often difficult to correct.
And even more important, we are cognizant that each generation of people sees previous interpretations of history through a new lens and their written records will be based on their experiences. Historians often uncover new — or buried — information that alters what had been previously accepted as fact.
In other words, carving the past into marble — or newsprint — is fraught with hidden risks. Getting history right is hard.
Caring for our community
The coronavirus continues to mutate and the Delta variant is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated and vaccinated residents. Emergency rooms are seeing an increase of infected patients once again. The local positivity rate is back in double digits.
At The Coastal Star, we care about the people and businesses in our community and want to see them healthy. Toward that end, we encourage our readers to get vaccinated (it’s free) and wear masks (it’s easy) when indoors in crowded places. Let’s do this. I think we can all agree we want this pandemic to end.
— Mary Kate Leming,
Here, here. Well understood.
Well said. Thank you.