The right approach to corrections

I’ve been enjoying a Reuters blog called The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. (The serial comma is theirs, not mine.) The wire service reports and responds to reader complaints in a pithy fashion.

It’s a welcome approach that many U.S. publications could try. Too many newspapers fail to own up to their mistakes. When they do, they publish corrections that are often inscrutable, written so painfully to “not repeat the error” that the reader is left wondering what happened. (Here is an example.) Many blogs by ombudsmen and top editors deal with weighty topics such as identification of rape victims, allegations of bias, etc.

Reuters does the opposite. It operates in the world of the small stuff. In each post, the editors show what was wrong and quote the reader’s complaint. Then the editors respond, either acknowledging an error or defending the story. It’s simple but effective, and the blog format allows for faster responses than corrections in print, which typically run a few days after the original story.

For more about corrections, take a look at this column by Ted Vaden, the public editor at The News & Observer.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times has started a blog that looks to be similar to what Reuters does.

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One thought on “The right approach to corrections

  1. Andy,

    Many thanks for the kind words about The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly (sorry about the extra comma), and thank you for calling attention to my blog.

    While you are right to say that GBU doesn’t make cosmic, ombudsman-like pronouncements, I would point out that we don’t just seek out the trivial. If there is a huge mistake, or a public controversy about our approach to a story or subject, you will find GBU is all over it.

    And, if a lot of readers are offended or angered by something we do, we are up front in GBU about the magnitude of the reaction. Come back often and you’ll find all sizes of dirty laundry aired in public, not just the petite.

    I think I’m supposed to be in the kitchen helping with Thanksgiving dinner.

    Best regards,
    Bob Basler

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