Right your wrongs with transparency

By · Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

not teaching,
still THINKING …

Mistakes happen. An important thing to remember as journalists is that when errors occur, we must be transparent with our audience. The same is true when we update information in an already published story.

There is a difference between correcting something that is outright wrong and updating a story as new information is obtained. In either case, without transparency, the audience could think information is wrong when it is not, or they could spread misinformation, thinking it is correct.

We offer some models that could be helpful.

Information is in error. Here are two examples of transparency online 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.

Information has been updated. Here are two examples of transparency online in real time to explain exactly what changed when stories were 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 or updated, follow a process and be transparent — no matter how often you must do it. Feel confident that you are doing the right thing.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

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