Monday, October 14, 2013

How does your site correct errors online?

This morning, The New York Times' ombudsman addressed the tricky challenge of how to notify readers when online articles are updated to correct factual errors. In a blog post, Margaret Sullivan says the paper's policy is this:

"When an early version of an article contains a clear factual error, that error is fixed in the article itself and, at the same time, a correction notice is added at the end. That doesn’t always happen in practice, especially in breaking news stories where the facts are in flux. Sometimes a change is made quickly and a correction comes later; sometimes the correction never comes at all."

On Gannett Blog, I flag errors by updating the post with the correct information, while leaving the incorrect text in place in strikeout font like this. That way, readers see what's right -- and what was wrong.

At Gannett's biggest daily, USA Today, I can recall only one instance when a correction was appended to an online article. That suggests the paper never errs online -- or it's correcting errors without letting readers know.

Related: USAT's contact us page includes a form to report errors.

What is your site's policy? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Cincinnati corrects the error without any indication to readers. No correction notice anywhere. With as many errors as they make online, it's good to be sneaky.

  2. I remember a time in the not-too-distant past when we had to file corrections for the next day's print edition. It was humbling, and you sometimes did it like a dog with his tail between his legs. These days, it's amazing if the errors are even noticed, let alone published as a correction.

  3. How do they correct errors? They don't. Example: I noticed a factual error in a story that was written by one of the Gannett transplants, some guy who didn't live here at the time the event in his story occurred. Stuff like that is virtually guaranteed with Gannett's tendency to put people with zero community experience in their properties like replaceable widgets. I thought I'd be helpful anyway and let him know about the error. He thanked me for the correct info (I gave him quite a few verifiable sources for corroboration, something this upper-level editor should have done in the first place), said he'd correct it. And then, for all the thanks and sources, he never did. The glaring error stayed up, further damaging — one would think if that's possible — the paper's credibility with the community we keep hearing is so valued.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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