Corrections are important for two reasons: First, because we need to be right. And second, because transparency is a core value for Rio Linda Messenger. That’s why you don’t hear us saying things externally that you don’t hear internally or vice versa; that’s why we are so open to engaging critics on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. We live in the social conversation, and we can’t hide from it. And while every error is a weakness, some errors are inevitable, and fully and openly correcting them is a strength.
This policy has two goals. One is to have a better handle on any mistakes we make. But the other is to avoid the one thing worse than making an error — which is resisting correcting it. We all make mistakes sometimes; the fullness and speed of corrections are one of the delights of digital journalism, and we should embrace it in full.
How The Messenger Does Corrections
• A correction should include the accurate information. It should explain the error, and it may restate the error when it’s necessary to clarify what it was or to debunk a claim.
• Corrections should be made for errors of fact — not misspellings or typos or broken links. Do issue a correction, however, if a person or brand’s name is misspelled throughout a story (even if a name appears only once and is misspelled).
• If a correction is issued for a misspelling, it should be stated simply as:
[TK person]’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.
• The correction’s tone should echo the tone of the item, in keeping with its gravity. For a factual error in, say, a funny list, the language can be fairly colloquial and even humorous as long as it contains the basic building blocks — “we got something wrong, and here is the correct information”; whereas for a news error, the language should be more sober and direct. A dumb mistake on a list of weird facts about Love Actually can begin with “Gah!”; a correction of an error of fact in a news story should not.
• Corrections should be in plain English, not in the somewhat formal corrections style traditional among news organizations.
• Be very thorough and careful. The absolute worst thing is to have to correct your correction. If the correction is about a person, it’s often a good move to read the correction on the phone to its subject before printing it.
• Try to mention the correction on all channels the story went out on — if you tweeted it, tweet the correction, etc.
Be generous to the person on Twitter or Facebook who pointed out the error — whether you are feeling generous or not, and no matter how obnoxious the tweet. That person did you a favor by improving your piece. If possible, end the correction with “(H/T: @twitterlunatic)” and a link to the tweet in question. If a hat tip appears in a dek or in the middle of running copy as a stand-alone sentence, use end punctuation.
Corrections vs. Updates
Updates should be used to reflect important new information or clarifications; corrections are for mistakes.