October 22, 2005

Coping with corrections

It's going to rain...whoops! I mean, sunny today with a high of 83 degrees and variably cloudy.

I've always poked fun at weather forecasters. They have one of the only professions in which they can provide incorrect information to an entire population on a daily basis and still get paid.

However, as I was reading from a Freedom Forum study, I realized that journalists are permitted the same occupational perk. And, in addition, this article demonstrates, the public relishes the moment when a reporter has the grace to say they are wrong and that is sorry for the erroneous info.

As I have said numerous time before, reporters have egos, and when a correction is placed with your story attached to it, it hurts. Literally hurts. Your story is your story, and, if you have been working on it for a long time, it becomes part of you--an echo of personal experience--despite all the objective bravado you may exhibit on the phone with a reader seeking a correction.

In fact, when my articles have been sent through the correction wringer, I have tried to stay objective, but it does hurt. I am proud to say that I haven't had any substantial corrections placed regarding my work, but I know corrections will be made with my name attached.

This article addresses more of the editorial staff's issues with correction fairness, rather than a reporter's, at least in my experience. If e-mailed responses to articles are received, they go directly to an editor, who decides to either a)address the issue with a correction b)talk with the contact about the problem or c)ignore the issue. C is usually not the case.

No one, especially the editors, want to admit a mistake that has passed their eyes. And, as both editor and writer, I know what that horrible sinking feeling of "bad" information is like, and plastering it up for everyone to see in a large box makes the editors look incompetent. The Tribune-Review, the Mt. Pleasant Journal and the Setonian, all employ small correction boxes, if at all. I can't say that I have ever seen a large correction in a paper before, but, surprisingly the public wants to see more of them.

I guess the only thing getting in the way is personal ego, professional ego and an organization's credibility. What incredible roadblocks! Because unlike weather forecasters, reporters--good ones--must face their mistakes with grace and humility and hold out for a sunny day, knowing that the rainy ones pour out in equal measure. I think all reporters, because of that reason, are secretly optimistists, waiting for that eternal sunshine.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at October 22, 2005 11:09 AM | TrackBack

Are you from Texas and is your moms name Janet?

Posted by: Bennie Coley at October 22, 2005 12:42 PM

Um, no.

Posted by: Amanda at October 25, 2005 10:38 PM
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