Newspaper Corrections: Sources Now Share the Obligation
Written by Ryan Thornburg June 1, 2009 12:40 pm EDT 3 comments
Handling errors and corrections online is good topic for newsroom debate. The dual challenge is that online text can be updated/fixed/improved/corrected at any time and it’s also always available. That means errors can get corrected quickly, but those that don’t can damage credibility long past the daily print edition.
In a world where anyone can publish a blog, professional journalists need to emphasize accuracy and credibility even more. But the reductions in staff at almost all newsrooms in America is putting a squeeze on quality control.
This story from last week’s News & Observer provides an interesting case study. The piece quoted me, but mistakenly said I had worked for USA Today. When I saw the error, I emailed the reporter and used the article’s comments section to quickly post my own correction.
In the last week, though, I never heard back from the reporter. It turns out he was on furlough. He sent an apologetic note once he got back. That said, the fact error remains online.
So, let’s walk through what’s wrong (and right) with this picture:
1. Error gets in the news article. Yes, this is an automatic F in my introductory newswriting classes, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. Many people would wisely artgue that these kinds of pernicous little errors are going to become more common, though, as reporters take on the work of departed colleagues and stories get fewer reads by editors before they go to press.
2. Vigilant sources can use comments to correct errors in the article. This is incredibly empowering and could go a long way to increasing trust in journalism. You often hear sources say they spot errors in reporting but never bother to ask for a correction because they figure the reporters and editors won’t care anyway. For the most part I think that’s the opposite of true. But it also doesn’t matter now — sources have the ability, and even the obligation, to correct errors of fact. To not do so is to complictly accept and tolerate inaccuracy.
3. Someone at the N&O should have been monitoring these comments and alerting the appropriate editors to corrections. The primary reason the comments section on newspaper articles are so low-brow is because the (already thinly spread) staff is not participating in them. Which leads us back to the old sentiment among sources and readers — that newspaper editors just don’t care about what I have to say.
This example highlights the two key components to success in the future of news — high levels of accuracy and engagement. Journalists who don’t pursue both are in danger of becoming quickly irrelevant.Learn More
Leaders — Political and Editorial — Need to Work the Network
Written by Ryan Thornburg November 26, 2008 2:53 pm EST No comments
The News & Observer in Raleigh today picked up an op-ed I wrote about the need for winning political candidates to follow through on their gestures of online community connectivity. (Hat tip to WCHL for the idea…)
But this challenge isn’t unique to political leaders, it’s also one that journalists must meet and a gesture on which they are following through even less.
Hooked on the promise of the free advertising inventory generated by online comments, more and more newspaper Web sites are deploying some type of online discussion technology. What they aren’t deploying is the kind of human resources that are needed to foster and develop online conversations. Why do most comments on news articles follow Godwin’s Law? Because there is little or no authentic conversational leaders. There is no human being making connections between people and ideas and, um, fact.
Just look at this recent survey of online journalists in North Carolina — online community management ranked as the skill that these editorial staffers said was least important to their jobs.
Here are my quick thoughts on how news organizations should begin to approach online comments.Learn More
One Pager: Building Community Online
Written by Ryan Thornburg May 22, 2008 2:32 pm EDT No comments
Several participants from the N.C. Newspaper Academy earlier this month in Chapel Hill wanted to know more about dealing with comments on articles. At their request I’ve created another in my series of simple one-page “how to’s” of online journalism.
The other One Page guides from this series can be found here.Learn More
What I'm reading
- Writing from Video Exercise
These video writing and editing exercises are from the 4th Edition of the Broadcast News Handbook by Charlie Tuggle, Forrest Carr and Suzanne Hoffman.
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- How to Count Items in a Filtered List in Excel
- Relational Databases - Example - Martin Baker
- MySQL :: MySQL 5.0 Reference Manual :: 10 Data Types