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.