Digital error? Update? Be transparent

By · Monday, May 5th, 2014

There are more opportunities for misinformation to be disseminated digitally than in print for a number of reasons:

Misinformation can seem magnified because readers get information by the minute, and they share that information in real time. They comment immediately on that information in reader posts, and they point out discrepancies. Sometimes those discrepancies are errors; sometimes they are a result of the story having been updated.

Readers are now part of the process as news unfolds. But they still are consumers of information who must be protected from being misinformed or confused.

There is a difference between correcting something that is outright wrong and updating a story as new information is obtained. Regardless, you must be transparent. Without transparency, readers could think information is wrong when it is not, or they could spread misinformation, thinking it is correct.

Here are examples of transparency in real time when information is in error:

  1. We reported that a man was rescued from his overturned boat on the Oneida River. He was rescued from the Seneca River.
  2. Concert tickets go on sale tomorrow at 9 a.m., not this morning, as we reported.

Here are examples of transparency in real time to explain exactly what changed when stories have been updated:

  1. Authorities now say three people, not four, died in the fire.
  2. The principal now says elementary students will not be dismissed this morning because of the water-main break. They are being sent by bus to the middle school for the rest of the day.

When information needs to be corrected, follow a process. No matter how often you must correct or update information, feel confident that being transparent about it is the right thing to do.

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