Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Corrections are nice, but let's get it right

Nick Kairys

The same thing is preached around newsrooms across the country. Break it first. Get the story out there. Gotta be quick.

It has become the norm to desire to be the organization that breaks big news the fastest, which makes sense in a time when constant social media updates consume the lives of millions of people.

So okay, let’s say the story is out there and published. Right on the website of a nationally known newspaper.

And the reporter screwed up.

Maybe it’s just a small error of fact in the beginning of the piece. The process then is to append correction notes. Even then, studies have shown some sites aren't even doing this.

Obviously the main problem is the fact that those who read the story earlier have already been fed false information and could possibly spread that information by word of mouth, social media posts, etc.

The second issue is where those correction notes are located. At the bottom of the story.

Not only is it difficult to persuade your audience to visit a page to read an article, it’s even more difficult to get that reader to read through to the end of the article. Then what do you think the odds are that the reader will visit the same exact article twice and read through it again?

At that point it’s simply too late. All news websites should have a corrections tab easily accessible to readers on the homepage. It could even link the correction in bold to attract attention.

But to only put a correction at the low end of a story is not enough. And there are also ways to be more effective with corrections.

What happens if the main point of the article is wrong? The story completely flawed?

Not only is it embarrassing to editors, it can potentially destroy the credibility of an entire publication. Which makes complete sense. Who would want to read from a site that has been known to stretch the truth or falsely report before?

In a recent instance involving the Washington Post, instead of trying to get the whole story, a reporter published a story saying an NBA star drove 95 miles to beat up an NBA coach for being with his ex-wife.

However, the reality of the situation was that the star only lived 15 minutes away and was just visiting his ex-wife to check on his children.
Via The Washington Post
After the correction story ran the following day, the damage was already done. Twitter members shared the news that broke first, not second.
Via the Twitter page of DJ Akademiks
The original story is juicier and more interesting to young eyes that scroll through their newsfeeds constantly. Even if they hear of the correction, they won’t want to believe it.

This demonstrates the importance of transparency and the concept that maybe it is better to get facts straight before jumping to the laptop to claim you were the organization to break it first.

It all comes down to what the publications value more. Would they rather just get the most clicks and credit for being the quickest? Or would they want to report the truth that citizens rely on and deserve?

If I had to choose, I'd give my readers something to believe in.

1 comment:

  1. Nick,
    I love this example! Our current technology does make it SO much more difficult to post a correction...or truth! By the time we're able to offer a rebuttal, the damage is not only done but gone viral. Maybe a meme has been created or worse...network news has believed it and made it the lead story in their evening news. Your last statement is correct, what is valued most: clicks or truth? At the moment, everyone want what's true and makes you want to scream when friends share stories that you know are not real (if I see one more person share The Onion as truth, I personally want to scream!) It is a good point that the truth, when revealed, isn't shared as loudly as the original revelation. It is an issue that I am unsure of how to tackle...I think it will take the audience to take control and stop perpetuating the lies and demand truth and transparency. Great post!
    Tracy Brewer