Every day there are ethical decisions that impact the hundreds or thousands of people who watch, read, listen, and/or click on a media source. The foundation for making the right decision starts with ethics classes in college. Students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism will use this blog to reflect on ethical questions in the media today.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Corrections are nice, but let's get it right
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
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.
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
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.