Fact Checking vs. Rapid Corrections: Which Is More Important?
from the reporting-vs.-conversations dept
A bunch of folks have been pointing to a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review, discussing the speed and style with which some “mainstream” media sources and some “new media” sources corrected a particular story. Apparently a newspaper in Arizona misreported some comments by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and the misquote was picked up by numerous blogs and online news sites. However, once it became clear what had happened, the new media sites were much faster to issue corrections, while making it clear what was corrected (often leaving the original up and noting the correction). The mainstream paper — who originated the story — was much slower about fixing things, and when it did, simply deleted the mistaken part at first, before later putting up a vague note about the change.
To some extent, I believe this shows the different mindsets of some of these newer publications. I’ve talked in the past about how I view this blog as a conversation, not a reporting venue. And, as such, I don’t delete stuff, even when it turns out that I made a mistake. Instead, I’ll do a strikethrough or cross out, along with an update explaining what happened. I don’t think it’s right to simply “disappear” the original — though I’ve had some traditional journalists (and one Hollywood lawyer) act as if I had done something horrible in using a strikethrough on mistaken content.
And yet, personally, I’ve found that, while I hate it when a story is wrong, the fact that I correct such stories fully and openly has built up greater trust. The few times we’ve needed to correct such a story, the response has almost always been universally positive rather than negative. As mentioned above, it’s like the difference between a conversation and old-school reporting. Old school reporting sought to be “the source of record.” A conversation is more about learning as you go. In a conversation, I might say something — and the person/people I’m talking to may correct me, and from that we all learn. But for traditional reporters, such an error is seen as a huge black mark that requires rewriting history and “disappearing” the mistake — rather than leaving it there, with a clear update, so that everyone can learn.