editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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An issue worth correcting, newspapers and errors

December 6th, 2007 · 2 Comments

At times, I read through more printed newspapers in the span of a week than my cohorts typically do in a month or even a year. While there are many consistencies, one that stands out is how newspapers handle corrections.

From the New York Times to Pocono Record, you can typically scan the bottom of the first three pages and find a column headlined “corrections” and a list of corrections will follow. For some newspapers, there can be a few a week and for others, there can be a half-dozen a day – draw your own conclusions. But they are there.

What is consistent in print is inconsistent online.

How newspapers handle their online corrections can vary widely in part because increasingly newspapers are providing online-only content. No longer is what you read online the same as what you see in print; some of it might never have been in the printed paper.

The New York Times advertises it’s corrections on the front-page, but the Washington Post and the Naples Daily News don’t. Actually, I couldn’t find any place on the Naples Daily News site that even mentions corrections. And, it turns out that you have to be a registered site visitor of the Washington Post to find out what corrections they are making.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that most newspapers correct their errors, I’m just not sure that they are truly transparent with their readers.

I fear that some newsrooms:

  • Make corrections right in the story and don’t note them. To them, it is enough that they and possibly the person who might have identified the correction, know that it was made.
  • Print corrections in their printed newspaper, but ignore the online content. To them what appeared online, appeared online, the document “of record” is the printed newspaper.
  • Ignore online-only corrections altogether. Online content that is wrong is wrong. To them “no one reads our website anyway” so why worry about it.

I am a firm believer that corrections need to be made, not just because an error was made, but because acknowledgment of the error makes us all better, reporters, editors and such. I also believe that corrections need to be made because that is part of the compact we have with our readers.

And while it is important that we print corrections in our printed newspapers AND append them to the story in question, it is just as important to print corrections online. With more and more readers only reading newspapers online, not providing those corrections online is akin to not providing corrections at all.

Does your newsroom have a correction policy that covers your print and online products? Does your newsroom have a correction policy that covers your print and online staffs? If the answer to either question is “no” then I urge you to address this issue.

If you do have a policy, then why not share it here and help newsrooms looking for guidance?

Tags: Best Practices · Industry · Online

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 contentious.com - links for 2008-02-06 // Feb 6, 2008 at 11:24 am

    [...] An issue worth correcting, newspapers and errors | editor on the verge “I am a firm believer that corrections need to be made, not just because an error was made, but because acknowledgment of the error makes us all better, reporters, editors and such. “ (tags: mistakes solutions ethics newspapers news+biz print journalism tidbits+fodder) [...]

  • 2 TomMeagher.com » Blog Archive » Uhhh, sorry? // Jun 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    [...] colleague Yoni Greenbaum has entered the journalism blogging arena, and he recently added his philosophy about the obligation of newspapers to make their corrections as easy to find online as they are in [...]

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