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Changes/Corrections in Online Journalism

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WriteThinking, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Take a look at this example of some of the corrections issues that are more and more likely to crop up involving newspapers and their Web sites. Follow the links to the "catch" of the problem and to the original story.


    It's a column on a big story, by a big name at a big paper.

    Was the situation handled properly? Or was underhandedness and sleight-of-hand blatant and intentional in the worst sense?

    It seems to be how papers often do their online correcting, anyway -- i.e. by just "updating"/changing as needed, so, in that sense, it hardly seems much different than what is often standard operating procedure.

    It is just the original word "murdered," the definition of it, and the official determination that that was not the case in this instance that makes this example into a necessary actual correction.

    Also, I didn't see the print edition. I wonder what ended up being in there?

    Bill Dwyre is a columnist, and I'm guessing that, in this case, his use of the word "murdered" was for effect and a matter of hyperbole, but the legal-journalism ramifications are problematic.

    Still, it probably wasn't a mistake at all on his part, and was fully intended. I wonder if he -- even as much of a giant in the industry as he is -- ended up in trouble over this at all?

    Any lesser light who wrote that, and especially, who had it come back to haunt/embarass/wrong the paper by having it be pointed out publicly, might get disciplined, or even fired -- no matter whose fault it was ultimately determined to be that it got out there. As Patterico and his readers point out, where were the editors, and what about their responsibility in this situation?

    This is a broad issue, though, of online journalism in general, in terms of production, semantics and ethics: if stories should be changed at all, and how and when, and if/how such things should be indicated is something that needs to be addressed, formally, and, even better, as uniformly as is possible.

    When is something a "change" and when is it a "correction"? And, when/how should that differentiation be made and handled?
  2. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    This is an interesting topic.

    So let's start with what we do: Somebody points out a mistake, we fix it. We don't correct it, we don't run it as is with an attached correction, we don't note that it was written one way but ended up another. Of course, we have no print edition.

    We have also never run into this unique situation with regard to such an inflammatory story -- and word.

    That's our way, and frankly, if we're talking about a misspelling or a bad stat or whatever, I'm comfortable with the way we do it.

    I suppose that if we ever ran a column or whatever, and a word caused this kind of problem, we might have to be a bit more circumspect about how we'd deal with it ... but we haven't had that situation arise yet.
  3. Babs

    Babs Member

    I've had to yank quotes out of stories. Those are the biggest changes I've made. If a reader emailed and asked why something changed or went away, I'd tell them why for sure. But I haven't gotten such an email yet.
  4. J-School Blue

    J-School Blue Member

    Corrections seem to be a dying thing when it comes to stories posted online.

    I find this pretty sad, as I was always kind of proud that newspapers owned up to their mistakes and made errors clear to both readers and sources. It seemed to set them apart from other mediums and showed a care for accuracy.

    A misspelling is one thing. Just change it. But an actual error...I think it deserves more. I don't know. It's entirely possible I'm just a Luddite, but so much that was basically good about the print process just seems to be eroding, and this is among those things that concerns me.
  5. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    Just an update and a response from the Times that gives an idea of what went on.

    In fairness regarding what happened, here's a link with more information on this situation.


    Still, the question is begged about the issue of the handling of online stories as opposed to print edition ones.

    This instance was apparently influenced by the need for the Web edition to "catch up" to the print edition.

    What really needed to happen was for the Web version to be slowed down/stopped, and this is a real problem with Web editing. The nature of the Web is just to get it up there, fast, and preferably, first.

    While the print edition, theoretically and ideally, operates the same way, editing still is not usually or typically an automatic casualty. The same cannot be said about stuff that is on the Web.

    This is something that, if we're going to do Web work, and post it, still needs to be addressed.
  6. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    At my previous stop, if it was a typo or a stat change, or something like that, we just fixed it. If the basis of the story changed, or there were competing facts coming out, we referenced it with a "so and so previously reported blah blah blah."
  7. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I hated how in the whole Golf Digest flap with Dan Jenkins' Twitter on Yang at the Masters; the editor's apology included mentioning how he erased the comment from the Twitter feed. For one thing, you're never going to make anything really vanish online anyway. But trying to essentially revise history, in a way, that bothers me. It happened, own up to it and leave it at that. Don't pull out your 21st-century eraser.
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