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Make a Boo Boo. What Do You Do?

The Rocky Mountain News’s columnist, John Temple, wrote “Once in Print, There Are No Mulligans”, a candid look at the bumps, bruises, and goofs the newspaper made over the past year, reflecting upon how easily these are done and how hard they are to correct.

We care deeply about accuracy, but it’s my experience that if you process as many words and pictures as we do on tight deadlines, things happen. Things that we wish we could have to do over again.

Here are a few such examples from the past year…

Spellcheck changed the name of Leucadia National Corp. to La-De-Da National Corp. And we published it…We identified former Avalanche player Steve Moore’s attorney as Ted Danson – perhaps someone had just watched a rerun of Cheers – instead of Tim Danson.

At the Rocky, our policy is to correct errors we notice ourselves or that are brought to our attention by readers. Not only is it the right thing to do, but if we didn’t, our electronic archive would contain inaccurate information that very probably would be picked up and repeated in future stories.

The article goes on to share more mistakes, especially mathematical errors, and publishes their new error catching (correcting) policy implemented the previous year from which they hoped would bring down the overall errors. They actually had a 6.1% increase from last year’s number. Yikes. According to Temple, “I believe that’s because we have become more quick to correct mistakes, not because we’re actually making more.”

Kudos to them for publicly exposing their mistakes and their continued efforts, good or bad, to fix what’s breaking, but it does bring up the obvious for this blog. What are you doing about your own goofs, mistakes, errors, nasty numbers, and garbled grammar?

I’d like to think that we bloggers should have some kind of error catching and admitting-your-wrong policies for our blogs. What would it say? Would it be one of those sweeping anti-litigation statements that says “Hey, just cuz we said it, don’t mean it’s right.” Or “If you believe this, I have some property in Biloxi I might be interested in selling.”

Bloggers have a very complex set of rights that may, or may not, protect them. Certainly, if you misspell the name of a company or publish a messed up statistical reference, you probably won’t get into much trouble, but if you call names, point fingers, or something more serious, trouble could be coming your way. But I want to talk about what you do if you make a mistake.

Temple is right about mistakes being picked up and repeated in future stories. One of the most powerful characteristics and methodology of bloggers is to find an interesting post and write about it with a link, often including excerpts from the original, as I just did above. This copy process can grab mistakes and pass that information on through the next 46 bloggers who copy the same content and spread it around. The mistake perpetuates itself. If the mistake is fixed, then who is going to fix it on the other 46 copies?

What do you do when you find a mistake on a published post? Do you have a policy? Written or not? What is your policy for when you mess up? Do you publicly state it and apologize? Or do you just edit the post with the correct information? Do you do any proof reading or checking of facts and figures before you hit the publish button, or do you even care? Do you think anyone else cares if you mess up?

Tell me about how you have handled your mess ups and if you went public. We need to know so we can all answer the questions for ourselves.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

4 Comments

  1. Posted February 1, 2006 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I’m not a blogger that’s taken seriously since I’m a personal blogger. So what do I do. Strike it out and replace it with the right word or meaning. or add another update to it explaining where I went wrong and credit the person responsible for pointing out the error.

    It doesn’t affect my credibility much, everyone makes mistakes. It’s only when its meant to be your job to know alot about what you’re writing about that your credibility is at stake. I don’t recommend anyone writing about what is meant to be their job. If you make a mistake…it can cost you your credibility…or even your job.

  2. Posted February 1, 2006 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I originally was going to write this.

    Update: Now I changed it to this

    I try to keep away from ‘hot’ topics though publishing a link on Digg with a slight OOPS was not planned yesterday and I so wish I could have taken it back.

    Instead of IE7, I ended up entering IE&. (A Slight slip of the SHIFT Key) The spell check and likes worked fine for the content just the title was the culprit as I did not spell check the title, only the content. And it was detected by me around a millisecond after clicking ‘Submit’

    Only 309 Comments on the entry so far on Digg and picked up or I should say commented on by 3 users as I have stopped reading all the comments

    Now I am looking for spell checking features for the Title of a blog post.

  3. Posted February 1, 2006 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Spell check boo boos are one reason why I rely so heavily upon Spellbound Spell Checker with Firefox. It will catch those titles, too. ;-)

    It doesn’t take much to make a slip like that. I’ve done plenty. And the wonder of spell check, as the article shows, doesn’t always catch all the boo boos. “Form” and “From” are easily missed since they are both spelled right. But as Edrei pointed out, a slip of the finger is unintentional, but a rock shattering misquote or missed verification can indeed do damage, not only to the writer but the business and the target of the story.

    I really think this is the kind of thing we need to talk about. Get it out in the open. The more we know, the more we can screw up – sorry, the more we can set right what was screwed up or prevent it in the first place.

  4. Posted February 1, 2006 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    The reason why I encourage you to doubt the sincerity of any paper saying, mea culpa, is that no matter how frankly they admit their mistakes, the corrections never, ever receive the priority of the original error. A front page mistake only merrits an A-3, below the fold sentence or two at best. Sacrifice accuracy? Sure. Ad space. Nein!

    Watch the money. That’s how you tell if a position is sincere. If the paper hired a copy editor or two after they recognized the 6% rise in mistakes, then they mean the apology. Otherwise, they don’t really give a flying… (well, the editors might but the publishers certainly don’t).

    For spelling/grammar, I silently correct. For factual or matters of opinion where I was wrong I always apologize and inline the correct information [Ed: this is incorrect, he rarely apologizes].

    This is a great cause to take up. Good peer pressure is what keeps social groups free of oppressive legislation. Getting it right matters. The attitude that it does matter filters down into all aspects of life.


4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] you made a mistake that has a big impact, edit your blog post and apologize on that post, not a new post, at the top [...]

  2. [...] a blogger, it’s little things. A mistake found in a post months after publishing. You are embarrassed but no big deal. Then someone says something [...]

  3. […] Make a Boo Boo. What Do You Do? […]

  4. […] Make a Boo Boo. What Do You Do? […]

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