You Don't Have to Be Perfect...

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...You Just Have to Admit Fault.

 

"Many members of the public expressed considerable empathy for the workload and pressures that reporters face and the mental and emotional tolls that kind of life can exact. But they do not believe this should exempt the newspaper from cleaning up its messes promptly and fully…Seeing as many errors as they do, the public would like to see many more corrections and clarifications" (Haiman 13).

 

The public wants to see that the newspaper is holding themselves accountable for their own mistakes.  Think of a newspaper as one body, one very informed person.  This is what it technically is.  The people can visit this “person” in order to find out most of the things he/she would want to know about public life.  The newspaper tells people the weather, what time movies are playing, what is going on in their communities, what is going on in their nation, the latest trends, etc.  It’s one-stop shopping. 

But what happens if this one person sometimes lies to you?  Most human beings do not being lied to because it diminishes our ability to trust the person who lied.  If you think of every mistake in the paper as a little (or big) lie, it puts the public’s demand for recognition of this lie in perspective.  If you are knowingly lied to, it helps if the person tells the truth as soon as possible.  This inability to keep the lie a secret humbles that person and shows us that he/she can admit fault.

This is all the public wants.  They know that most people lie or at least unintentionally don’t get the facts straight.  They just want to see the round-about apology for this error.  The fact that some papers make a habit out of calling attention to their shortcomings shows this and makes those papers more trustworthy.  In fact, people probably like to see that the paper makes mistakes because all people do.  It is human nature to err so to get everything right 100% of the time would be creepy not to mention unnatural. 

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6 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

You’re right Angela, it is impossible to be perfect all the time. In fact, if a newspaper seemed to be always correct 100 percent of the time, it would be human nature to think that they were simply covering their mistakes up (which would probably be the case). The fact that “the public expressed considerable empathy” for reporters shows that they see reporters as humans. As such, they aren’t expecting perfection, just acceptance of mistakes. It’s a lot harder to admit you made a mistake, than to try to hide it. So naturally, it is easier to trust the person who admits it because (1) they now have told you the correct information and (2) they have overcome the embarrassment of fault, realizing that by taking responsibility for their error they are doing what is best for all of their readers.

Derek Tickle said:

I love how you compare the newspaper to a person because it is true. The paper needs to hold accurate information in order for the viewers to be informed and have "trust." Before I read your second paragraph, I wrote the word trust, so there must be a connection between our thinking skills. This may be one reason why newspaper sales have deceased over the past several years. I understand that the Internet is one reason why people do not buy newspaper, but the sales seem to correlate with another medium. I think that medium is in-accruacy. Good Job and thanks for the comment!

Derek Tickle said:

Once again you made me think of something that I did not before reading your blog entry, so The Daily Words: Fact or Lie

Aja Hannah said:

This is one of the things I wish I saw more in teh Setonian. We make a lot of mistakes and I never see any corrections. Maybe they're hidden, but they escape my view and I actually look at the paper unlike other students.

The person/paper analysis was good too. I've never been misquoted or seen an error in a real paper that really got to me, but I see the trust issue.

I really like online journalism for this reason. They can go back and change something or make an edit "I'm sorry" or "Our bad" really easy and it isn't stuck in time forever.

Greta Carroll said:

Aja, you make a really good point about the Setonian. There never are corrections (and I'm sure there have been mistakes). Although, since the Setonian doesn't come out every day perhaps the corrections don't matter quite as much since the events are relatively far in the past.

I also like your distinction between online journalism and print journalism. It is a lot easier for journalists to go back through and edit mistakes online. However, because it is so easy to edit these mistakes, it's a lot easier for journalists just to change the mistakes and not draw attention to these corrections. This could mean that someone who read the article and got the wrong information is never made aware of the mistake. So I think correction online could work both ways. It could be a good thing in regards to the ease of correcting mistakes, but a bad thing in the increased ability for the news media to sweep these mistakes under the rug.

Angela Palumbo said:

Thanks for the comments everyone! Greta, thanks for the additions. Derek, great comment about how the internet has taken over. Lastly, Aja, good job bringing the difference between print and online news. I've noticed this with blogging as well. I'll see a little typo or see that I forgot to hyperlink something so I can simply go back and fix the problem. The internet makes fixing our mistakes (in these cases) very quick and painless.

One last thing, I've noticed that on PTI (Pardon The Interruption) which airs on ESPN that they have a whole segment dedicated to correcting the mistakes that Tony and Mike make. Now the show isn't straight news, there is a lot of argumentation involved as well, but news is a major segment of this show. Basically, what the two do is bring up a sports-related news story. Then one asks the other what he thinks about some aspect of said story which often leads to disagreements. Check it out some day. It's on at 5:30 pm on ESPN.

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