A reporter’s guide to corrections

Here’s the internal protocol we have written for reporters at my newspaper for handling corrections. What would you change/add?

Craig Newmark, founder of “Craig’s List,” has argued that “trust is the new black.” News outlets that emphasize accuracy, fact checking and a relationship of trust with their readers will survive and thrive in the new news ecology.

That means welcoming and embracing reports of errors – from minor to significant, from concrete to subjective – admitting our mistakes, and moving swiftly and very publicly to correct them.

This is why RegisterCitizen.Com pioneered the simple concept of the “Fact Check” box at the bottom of every story online as a public statement of accountability and easy and convenient way for our readers to engage with us on corrections.

Consistency in following the protocol we have set up regarding corrections is one of your most important responsibilities as a reporter for Foothills Media Group. It establishes and maintains our most basic credibility as a source of local news.

Please follow this protocol regarding errors and corrections:

1. As soon as a story is published online and in print editions, it is a reporter’s responsibility to monitor online story comments and be attentive to Fact Check reports, emails, phone calls, in-person reports and reports in other media that call attention to or make you aware of errors or inaccuracies in our reporting.

2. Errors – ranging from spelling and grammar mistakes, to incorrect facts, to aspects of a story that are misleading due to improper or missing context – should be corrected as soon as possible, and there is no time limit after a story is published on the need for a correction.

3. The only errors that do not require a formal correction (and can simply be changed in online stories without a notation calling attention to it) are misspellings and typos that do not change the meaning of a relevant detail in the story. (Misspellings of proper names do require a formal correction.)

4. For all other errors, you must follow this process each time:
– Change the online version of the story so that the error is corrected within the body of the story.
– Write a note at the bottom of the story calling attention to the correction. Follow this format, “CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the hometown of Winchester town manager candidate John Smith. He is from Rochester, New Hampshire, not Rochester, Minnesota.”
– Publish a version of the correction to our online “Corrections” page at RegisterCitizen.Com/news/corrections. Publish it as a separate story under “News,” with the word “Corrections” in the tagging box. Refer to the headline of the story, and the date the story was published. Use the headline to link back to the actual story.
– If an error appeared in the print edition, draft a correction as a separate story in Prestige. Refer to the headline of the story, the date it ran and the page on which it appeared.

5. Always repeat the error, in addition to providing the correct information. Otherwise, we are just vaguely admitting we got something wrong, without explaining what it was.

6. Send a copy of each formal correction to the editor, managing editor (eolson@registercitizen.com) and publisher (mderienzo@registercitizen.com) when you make one. Reach out to one of them if you have any questions about how to handle a correction or are not sure whether one is needed.

7. (ADDED THANKS TO ELAINE CLISHAM … thank you!) If you know (granted that some are anonymous) who asked for the correction, or pointed out the error, get back to them with notification and/or a link to the correction, and thank them for notifying us. If someone asked for a correction on a subjective matter that we ultimately decided did not need a correction or clarification (please consult/notify editors before deciding this), still get back to the person with acknowledgement of the request and an explanation of why we are not running something.

8. Do not be worried if it seems like you are making/notifying us of a lot of formal corrections. With the volume of stories we do and facts we report every day, we will be making multiple corrections every day if we are as vigilant as we should be, and our readers are as engaged as we want them to be in pointing out problems.

Here is the corrections policy we have posted for readers on RegisterCitizen.Com:

The Register Citizen strives for accuracy in the news stories and other content that are published on RegisterCitizen.Com and in its print edition.
We are committed to correcting all errors that come to our attention, and encourage readers, story sources and the community at-large to point them out to us.
Errors can be brought to our attention in a number of ways, including contacting the reporter who wrote the story in question by email or phone, or contacting Managing Editor Emily M. Olson at editor@registercitizen.com or 860-489-3121, ext. 334, or Publisher Matt DeRienzo at mderienzo@registercitizen.com or 860-489-3121, ext. 350.
Readers can also use the “Fact Check” form that appears on this page and at the bottom of every story that we publish on RegisterCitizen.Com. You can report errors anonymously, or provide an email and/or other contact information so that we can confirm receipt and/or action on the matter, and ask you to clarify if necessary.
We believe that no correction is too small to deserve our attention, and so we urge readers to notify us of everything from clear errors in fact, to misspelling of names, to improper or missing context that leads to a misrepresentation of the issue being discussed.
We strive to correct errors in our reporting as quickly as possible, and in several ways.
If a story has appeared both online and in print, we will print a correction in both places. Our Corrections box in the print edition of The Register Citizen is printed on our daily editorial page. Our Corrections page online is at RegisterCitizen.Com/news/corrections.
Because we are able to edit stories online after they are initially published, we will do so to fix the information that was wrong. But we will also list a note at the bottom of the story marked “CORRECTION” that points out what was changed from the earlier version of the story. That correction note will also be printed on this page of the website.
Online and in print, we believe that corrections should repeat the error and then report what the correct information is so that readers get the full picture of how our reporting and/or editing went wrong.
We can’t guarantee a mistake-free newspaper and website, but we can pledge to be transparent about how we deal with and correct mistakes. That is the goal of this corrections policy and corrections page. If you feel points are missing from this policy, please contact Publisher Matt DeRienzo at mderienzo@registercitizen.com or 860-489-3121, ext. 350, with your suggestions.


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