Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Corrections’

Building trust in new ways

In Ideas on 15 Dec 2016 at 1:35 pm
Photo courtesy Journalism and Women Symposium

Photo courtesy Journalism and Women Symposium

The American Press Institute recently hosted the Journalism and Women Symposium in Roanoke, Va. (If you think your job is difficult, consider that the symposium is not only charged with supporting professional growth in women journalists but also with “supporting a more accurate portrayal of the whole society.”)

API used the gathering to release results of its recent survey on trust in the media. Not surprisingly, the organization found that building trust is not only an important thing, but maybe the important thing. Without it, readers simply go elsewhere and we can’t afford that.

Interestingly, the organization asked symposium participants to divide into groups and brainstorm ways to build trust in a news organization. The ideas themselves were interesting – and so was one particular aspect about the way they were presented.

  • Get to know the community and let the community know you.
  • Be more forthcoming with corrections and make them easier to find.
  • Add more context to stories. (I think this is the key ingredient most often missing from the soup we make.)
  • Change the face of your newsroom and talk to new sources. (Newsrooms need to look like their communities in terms of race, gender, age, etc.)
  • Be more transparent about how you report and your sources. …

Read the rest of this entry »


Please don’t misspell ‘Wick’

In Editing on 20 May 2015 at 4:41 pm

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 4.01.42 PM

Mistakes, like the coming night, are inevitable in this business. We all make them and one of the most routine is the common spelling error.

This is true despite our best efforts. In fact, sometimes it feels like I am more likely to make spelling mistakes if I am absolutely determined not to do so. It’s as if the act of concentration causes “e” and “i” to transpose or for “their” to come out of the keyboard as “there.” Does that happen to you, too?

Sometimes our readers are understanding; sometimes they treat us as if we are buffoons, because lord knows they never make mistakes like that. Sometimes they suggest that the newspaper was once much more skillfully edited and that such errors are more common today. That may be true, particularly if your publication has lost a copy editor in the last few years.

But don’t let anyone tell you that newspapers were once perfect. That just isn’t the case. … Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t be your own worst enemy

In Editing on 15 Jan 2015 at 2:53 pm


Did you see the retraction of the century the other day? It appeared in The News-Enterprise in Hardin County, Ky. And it still makes me cringe a week later.

The story was headlined, “Law enforcement to be honored for service” and was all about how officers consider theirs a noble profession. So far so good. The trouble came in the proofing process, when some chowderhead on the copy desk actually inserted the mistake you see in the photo above. Elizabethtown Police Chief Tracy Schiller’s actual quote was that policing provided “a unique opportunity to help people in the worst times in their lives.”

What happened at the News-Enterprise happened because a copy editor thought it would be funny to monkey with the police chief’s quote, figuring it would be a good laugh for the guy or gal who actually signed off on the pages. Only that editor didn’t do such a good job.

Look, this is real simple: Never type anything into your work computer that you don’t want your momma and them to read. And never, ever, put stuff on page proofs that are a joke. Things happen. Someone accidentally pushes a button and suddenly your little laugh is rolling out on the printer or broadcast on the Web. (And if you must print dummy text, use Lorem Ipsum, the nonsensical Latin that comes from a Cicero text no one remembers.) … Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t regret the error!

In Accuracy on 8 May 2014 at 2:11 pm


Here’s a correction you wouldn’t want to write:

“Our September 28, 2013, article ‘How JK’s sob story about her single mother past surprised and confused the church members who cared for her’ suggested that JK Rowling made a knowingly false and inexcusable claim in an article for the Gingerbread charity that people at her church had stigmatised her and cruelly taunted her for being a single mother.

“In fact Mrs Rowling recounted only one incident where a visitor to the church sitgmatised and taunted her on a particular day. We accept that Ms Rowling’s article did not contain any false claims and apologise for any contrary suggestion and have agreed to pay substantial damages to Ms Rowling, which she is donating to charity, and a contribution to her legal costs.”

This is from the Daily Mail of London, circling back to a story it did on something author Rowling wrote for a charity. It’s a little convoluted and a lot weird. It also does something that I wouldn’t recommend doing in this country: the correction repeats the error.

Corrections are a fact of life in the newspaper business. I don’t know much, but I do know you will make a correctable mistake at some point in your career. There is no shame in that, as long as you are diligent before publication and dutiful when you do screw up.

Corrections should do two things and two things only: They should correct the error and tell readers how the error came to be in the newspaper. They should not repeat the error, nor apologize for making it. Why? One reason for corrections is to mitigate any liability should the mistake turn into a court action. Repeating the error (as the Daily Mail did in the above example) could actually increase damages in a U.S. court. Similarly, apologizing, regretting the error and so on may seem the right thing to do, but it can also be considered an admission of guilt in a court of law. … Read the rest of this entry »

Striking an apologetic tone

In Writing techniques on 14 Nov 2013 at 2:34 pm


If you are honest with yourself and others, you probably should to apologize for something or other several times a day. You forgot your sister’s birthday. You stumbled into an ad rep while walking backward down the hall and expounding upon last night’s episode of “Scandal.” Or maybe you screwed up something more serious at work.

It is that last possibility with which we concern ourselves today.

Earlier this fall, a very nice lady named Cody Davis posted the following comment on a five-year-old story:

Hey, I’m a female! And I graduated as Airman Apprentice Davis, thank you very much!

Would that all complaints were so polite. At issue was a 2008 brief in the Half Moon Bay Review noting a local’s graduation from a military program. It began:

Navy Seaman Recruit Cody E. Davis, son of Paula E. Garst of El Granada and Pat I. Davis of Pescadero, recently completed U.S. Navy basic training at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill.

Somehow. in those 34 words, we managed to get her gender wrong, misspell her mother’s name and botch her rank. That is strike three and completely defeats the purpose. Good grief. … Read the rest of this entry »

Lies, damn lies and statistics

In Ethics on 1 Mar 2012 at 11:39 am

Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is pictured at left in this photo by Carol Guzy of the Washington Post.

You may have seen that the Washington Post added a lengthy editor’s note onto a story about the way the D.C. police force tracks crime. The newspaper’s attempt to clarify came after sharp criticism from the city’s police chief.

I think all of it – the story, the chief’s outrage, the newspaper’s clarification and especially the resulting thoughtful analysis of crime in the city – serves readers well. What do you think?

The original story points out that the D.C. police use a statistical formula for determining homicide case closures  in any given year that includes cases closed from previous years. As a result, the department can claim to have closed 94 percent of its cases in 2011. But, as the Post pointed out, that includes 40 cases that lagged from past years. Factor those out, and the city has only closed 57 percent of the cases that opened in 2011.

I think the newspaper is absolutely right to point that out. In fact, I may have used words like “trick” and “fudge” as the newspaper did the first time around.

However, the newspaper failed to note that the D.C. cops were merely using the statistical “trick” that is standard in the industry. Meaning, perhaps, that a lot of us newspaper editors should crunch these numbers in our own communities. … Read the rest of this entry »

Epilogue to ‘check it out’

In journalism on 3 Feb 2012 at 10:02 am

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post highlighting the need to check things out, not to believe everything you hear, no matter how compelling. Well, there has been a development in one of the examples I used here.

I told you all that I heard a very moving personal commentary on the local NPR affiliate on Jan. 11. It was by a man who said he was a former pitcher on a Chicago Cubs minor-league farm team, whose life began to take a turn for the worse after an injury. He said that he served in the Army in Iraq and “watched half his squadron die.” Then he was arrested in one of the Occupy protests.

I told you that that was either quite a story or quite a made-up story. So I decided to check out one aspect of the story. I called the Cubs. A media guy there told me they couldn’t find evidence of a Leo Webb in their system, but would have to go through some paper records to know for sure and that was difficult because the team was moving offices. That’s where my story sat, until a veteran’s organization started asking similar questions. Meanwhile, the well-known American Public Media radio program Marketplace picked up the commentary.

This week, after initially offering the odd excuse that Webb was in treatment for psychological trauma, the local Bay Area station suggested the piece was a fraud after all. KQED pulled the story from its website and offered this explanation:

KQED has since learned that efforts to locate records to support either claim have been unsuccessful and significant elements of his commentary cannot be confirmed. We apologize to our listeners. … Read the rest of this entry »

More thought to corrections

In journalism on 6 Aug 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… Read the rest of this entry »

The categories of corrections

In journalism on 20 Nov 2009 at 9:44 am

Ever thought of your corrections in terms of categories? I do, sort of.

Very broadly, I think of corrections as coming from one of three places: Reporter error, editing mistake or incorrect information provided to the newspaper. It’s rarely that simple. But generally, when I write a correction, I begin it something like this: “Due to an editing error in the Nov. 20 edition …”

There is a guy named Scott Rosenberg who is taking it a step farther with something called MediaBugs. He wants to further categorize the mistakes we make so that he can treat them the way a software developer might. Address the categories then organize the work of “fixing” the bugs. At least that is my interpretation of what he’s up to.

He starts with these categories:

  • misquotation
  • mistaken identity
  • other simple factual error
  • ethical issue
  • faulty statistics or math
  • error of omission
  • typo, spelling, grammar
  • other… Read the rest of this entry »

Smarmy, Ga.? Really?

In journalism on 20 Nov 2009 at 9:38 am

A front-page Wall Street Journal story last week detailing how homebuilders in the South are forced to consider smaller floor plans in the wake of recession carried the dateline, “SMARMY, Ga.” Which is cute. Unless, perhaps, you are a subscriber living in “Smyrna, Ga.,” which is where the action in the story actually takes place

Sigh. Who among us hasn’t, at one time or another, typed something into the computer that we think is right hilarious? Something like “Smarmy, Ga.,” which we are sure our coworkers will see before instantly proclaiming us the next Robin Williams? … And then changing the mistake before anyone important sees it.

It’s possible the writer wasn’t trying to be funny. Maybe he was just leaving a placeholder, which he planned to go back and fix later. Heck, maybe he didn’t even do it. Maybe the offender was on the copy desk… Read the rest of this entry »