Wick Communications

More thought to corrections

In journalism on August 6, 2010 at 7:30 am

Both generally and specifically, I think we do a crummy job with corrections. Generally, mainstream media organizations do less than we should to correct bad information both in print and in online versions that can live far longer than the newspaper. More specifically, I think many Wick papers could do a better job in several ways.

Scott Rosenberg, a founder of Salon.com and Mediabugs, made some perceptive points in a recent blog posted by Amy Gahran on the Knight Digital Media Center Web site. He says, in part, that corrections are actually easier on blogs like The Kicker because we can do things like this to show that old information is no longer valid, while such flexibility just isn’t part of the backend content management systems used by many newspapers – including our own.

Amy’s blog goes into the Mediabugs report, “Hard to get a Fix: The state of Corrections in Bay Area Media.” Mediabugs found that “21 of 28 news sites examined—including many of the region’s leading daily newspapers and broadcast news outlets—provide no corrections link on their home pages and article pages. Also, the Web sites for 17 of the 28 news organizations examined have no corrections policy or substantive corrections content at all.”

I suspect most if not all of our news Web sites would fail that test, too…

I think Rosenberg goes a bit afield when he says that legacy media organizations just don’t like being challenged, that we would rather stand behind our stories. I don’t think that is true at the news organizations I’ve worked at lo these last 25 years. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think new media is much better. While there are many examples of responsible sites making use of versioning technology, strikethroughs and transparent corrections policies, many more just don’t correct anything at all as far as I can tell. That problem is compounded by the fact that many citizen journalists work alone and don’t even have the benefit of another set of eyes on copy before it goes out.

I think he’s on to something, though. I think we should have corrections policies pasted prominently on our Web sites, with relevant contacts for anyone wanting to suggest a correction. I think it would be a great idea to run those corrections perhaps under a corrections tab. And I think we should do a better job of making sure our print corrections are carried over on the Web.

I’ve written about corrections before. Feel free to take a look.

Clay

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