Friday, December 18, 2009

Pointing the Finger

Scott Rosenberg looks at the amusing 911-9/11 error at The Washington Post, but finds another lesson to be learned. Among other things, he believes newspaper corrections should identify the person who makes the error.

It's an intriguing concept. I wonder if all reporters really really want to have correction policies that point a finger? It's been my experience over the years that nearly every error was made by a reporter or assigning desk editor.

Not always, of course, and an error introduced by the copy desk is probably extremely galling. But if I had a nickel for every time the copy desk was blamed until the systems audit trail proved otherwise, I would be rich and no longer working for a newspaper. As it happens, only the last part is true.

The transparency issue is interesting though I really wonder whether readers care who made the error. Or whether explanations are best left to ombudsmen columns at some later point.  I don't, but then I rarely read stories because of the byline. Are people so much more invested in the individuals behind the story or is that a writer fantasy?

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