The Online Corrections Problem… Again

from the haven't-we-seen-this-before? dept

About a year ago, Online Journalism Review had an article about newspaper corrections online where they noted that most newspapers were horrible at making it easy for people to contact them about errors online, and even worse about actually fixing online errors. Now, in something of a followup, OJR digs much more deeply into the question of whether or not the websites of newspapers should correct errors in their stories. Last year, I was quoted for a story about spam in the LA Times, and when I pointed out that they made a mistake in quoting me, I was told that they couldn’t correct it, even in the online version without going through a big correction process, because if they fixed it (and in this case, it would require adding two letters to what had been written) “we could fiddle with stories all the time, and people would never know what the truth is.” Well, indeed, that wasn’t just what they told me, it appears to be official policy of the LA Times, as outlined in the OJR article. The article does a good job presenting both sides of the story. One side believes in correcting mistakes, along with a note mentioning that corrections were made or (for more serious corrections) explaining the nature of the correction. The other side is afraid of that whole “fiddling with the truth” issue, and says that once something is published it should remain — but with a correction note attached to the story. Both sides make fairly compelling arguments as to why they’re right, and there are some cases that cause obvious problems for either side. It seems like a fairly fine line, but correcting little typos and mistakes seems like a reasonable thing to do, while more major factual errors should be left in with a clearly marked and highly visible editor’s note explaining the problem.

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Comments on “The Online Corrections Problem… Again”

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dorpus says:

Monographic Monocles

Newspapers should have footnotes, bibliographies, abstracts, and peer-review boards. Lead authors must have PhD’s, and in exceptional cases, non-PhD authors will be considered for secondary authorship. Systems of licensure shall consist of 8-hour essay exams, dissertation defenses, and preliminary screening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: As long as they document it

Newspaper corrections should always be in the form of a correction notice, and not going back to the original source article and changing it. This is why online articles sometimes have a problem being properly thought of as a newspaper article.

Historians will use newspapers as articles of record of the time, (not as articles of historic truth, necessarily) and sometimes even the mistakes become a part of the history.

Doug says:

Re: Re: As long as they document it

Historians will use newspapers as articles of record of the time, (not as articles of historic truth, necessarily) and sometimes even the mistakes become a part of the history.


So the purpose of a newspaper is to publish something that will become a reliable record of whatever it was that the newspaper published?

Being informative is irrelevant? Being correct is irrelevant? Being relevant is irrelevant?

Curmudgeon says:

Re: Re: As long as they document it

People save newspapers because they are convenient to save. People access online media because it is up-to-date. When I see the web page, it should reflect the most recent information available. Same with TV — should we start each 11:00 newscast by apologizing for the errors of the 6:00 news, or just deliver the news?
Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with including a change log that identifies the changes made to particular story since it first broke. The Wall Street Journal seems to adhere to this concept (print and online), and it works well.

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