Washington Post Learns The Importance Of Fact Checking… And Reading The Comments

from the keep-up dept

On November 26th (Thanksgiving), the Washington Post put up an article about the group Public Enemy and its efforts to help the homeless in DC. Nice enough. However, there was one oddity in the article. It claimed that the band’s famous song 911 is a Joke was about the attacks of September 11th. Yes, this is a song that was released in 1990. And if you’ve ever heard it, you know that it’s about the phone number you call for emergencies. I mean the first line of the song is “I dialed 911 a long time ago….”.

Now, I guess this is a mistake that anyone could make if they were totally unfamiliar with Public Enemy or its music — but you would think that someone writing an article about the band would at least learn a little about the music it released. Furthermore, we’re constantly told about how the mainstream press is important because they have fact checkers. Apparently, they took Thanksgiving off.

But, a bigger point is brought forth by Mathew Ingram who points out that people in the comments of the article pointed out the mistake really quickly and it took an entire week for the Washington Post to get around to making a correction.

Now, everyone makes mistakes now and again, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it does demonstrate a few things. Just claiming you have fact checkers doesn’t make you significantly more accurate at times. Separately, we’ve pointed out in the past how bad newspapers seem to be with actually engaging with commenters on their site, and this highlights why they’re making a big mistake. Yes, it’s work. Yes, sometimes there can be a lot of junk in the comments, but you can also learn a lot — such as when you’ve made a huge mistake.

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Comments on “Washington Post Learns The Importance Of Fact Checking… And Reading The Comments”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Apparently there aren’t any fact checkers at techdirt either.

It doesn’t take more than a second to realize that the correction was published one week later, and appeared in the same “local living” section that appears (are you ready) once a week (every Thursday).

More moral outrage where none is merited?

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“It doesn’t take more than a second to realize that the correction was published one week later, and appeared in the same “local living” section that appears (are you ready) once a week (every Thursday).”

Oh yeah, we don’t want to forget the people who have the “Thursday Only” subscriptions. Good point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The weekly section is like a monthly magazine. They printed the correction in the same section as they made the mistake in, which is an “insert” into the regular paper.

The correction online would be nice, but being that it is a print paper, putting the correction in print is the right choice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

DUDE, please.

The Local Living is a supplimental section added once a week into the paper. It isn’t there every day.

The made an error in one edition, and published a retraction in the next edition. Gee, Wired does that, but because of lead time it can take 3 months. I guess Chris Anderson is a bad man as a result, right?

Sheesh, you guys never stop, do you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

No, we don’t. It’s a fundamental error that should not have been allowed in the first place. It takes only a couple of minutes to check something like that, but the writer couldn’t be bothered to do so. Yes, the retraction was in print a week later, but it could have been made online immediately. That is the point being made. Terribly sorry you got so worked up that this was pointed out, but it does not invalidate the point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I love when you guys just don’t get it.

The online edition is nothing but the stories that have made it to the print edition. The correction made it online at the same time it made it into print. There is no special online edition.

All I can say is if you guy are going to fight so hard about something like this, it makes me understand why you spend so long yelling and screaming about other stuff.

This is such a basic idea, I can’t imagine why you guys are so clueless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

No, you don’t get it. They could have immediately added some sidebar with a correction or added something that clearly indicates this is not part of the paper on the web that corrects the problem. People don’t want to wait a week for a correction and if the newspaper insists that somehow being a copy of the paper justifies waiting a week then the newspaper will lose customers because the customers aren’t convinced no matter how much you or the newspaper thinks its justified. The newspaper can continue thinking somehow your argument justifies their delay and they will continue to lose money as a result. Am I now speaking your language?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

…and then the web pages wouldn’t match the print world. Should they immediately run after their clients with a printed change too?

Me thinks you guys aren’t paying attention. Perhaps Mike can invite Chris Anderson over to explain how they do corrections at Wired (3 months later).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

“…and then the web pages wouldn’t match the print world.”

they can put the original print in one window and put the correction in another. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense. Stop making a galaxy out of an atom.

“Should they immediately run after their clients with a printed change too?”

No, they simply correct the printed version during the next edition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

What’s hilarious is that if the band sued for libel the webpage would have been changed instantly.

I’d love to see the Washington Post try to defend the delay in court, otherwise.

“Oh, yes, we were notified of the issue right away, but we wanted to make sure that the misinformation and libelous statements were thoroughly accurate with all other versions first!”

The Original Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:10 Re:

It’s amazing watching one idiot argue with himself.

The band argued, there would be a retraction made remarkably in a similar location and place to the way it was done this time. Notice, and it’s important, that the original story was NOT edited.

You guys will never learn that the internet isn’t all that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

They could easily have put the correction in the online article immediately and then put it in the vestigial version whenever it finds its way out. I mean, I understand that these days the stone tablet edition (released biennially) is fully 75% errata. A bit of professionalism would be in order, and I’d think professionalism would dictate that the correction be made in all versions, as soon as possible in each individual medium.

Pwdrskir (profile) says:

Shifting Paradigms

The point is that the WP does not understand the paradigm has shifted. It does not matter when a weekly print edition is printed, the readers are now reading 24/7/365.

All news organization that want to survive should be embracing an online strategy. It is clear that the old, broken, outdated business models that are preventing progress will go the way of the buggy whip industry because even when the new is attempted, it is done so with contempt and neglected, as in this case.

“If you want to make minor, incremental changes and improvements, work on practices, behavior or attitude. But if you want to make significant, quantum improvement, work on paradigms.”
– Stephen R. Covey – The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Shifting Paradigms

Nope, you miss it: You think the paradigm has shifted, but they have not shifted theirs, and you expect them to operate under your new rules. Sorry bub, the world doesn’t work that way. Their game, their rules. If you don’t like their rules, don’t read them and don’t support them. But you cannot force them to live up to your rules, it’s their game.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Shifting Paradigms

Super pedant: if 24/7 covers the whole calendar, then so does 24. I would say 24 hours a day leaves the possibility that not every day is covered (though every hour of those days that are included). 24/7 means every day of the week, but perhaps not every week. On the other hand, 365 days is 52 weeks plus one day, so 24/7/52 isn’t quite good enough either. 24/7/52.142857… doesn’t have much ring to it, and 24-7-52 1/7 isn’t much better.

I think 24/365 is best. The only time that’s inadequate is for leap periods of time (ie days and seconds). But 24/7 still sounds better.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ok, we know you are busy. Here is a suggestion:

1) Attach an RSS reader to the comments on your newspaper’s website (I assume you work for one, it has a website, and it has an RSS feed for the comments).
2) Filter the reader’s results for “error” and “mistake”.
3) Read all of these – they may pay off.

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