FishBowlNY recently reprinted a colorful correction contained in the pages of Low Life, a book by Luc Sante. It ran in the New York Daily Times (precursor to today's Times) on July 6, 1857 and came after the paper had covered a large gang fight in the city:
We are requested by the Dead Rabbits to state that the Dead Rabbit club members are not thieves, that they did not participate in the riot with the Bowery Boys, and that the fight in Mulberry street was between the Roach Guards
of Mulberry street and the Atlantic Guards of the Bowery. The Dead
Rabbits are sensitive on points of honor, we are assured, and wouldn't
allow a thief to live on their beat, much less be a member of the club.
first paragraph of Wednesday's article "Wholesaler slaughtered by home
brands" indicated that the clothing wholesaler Austin Group had put
itself up for auction. A spokesman for the group,
while acknowledging the group's poor recent financial performance, has
denied the wholesaler is "for auction". He said the board had requested
a report from an independent investment banker and would act after that
information was received. The spokesman also took
exception to the use of the word slaughtered in the headline, saying it
did not fairly reflect the content of the article.
This apology, from the Irish edition of the Mirror, is a result of this court decision from last year.
ON June 10, 1998, under the headline "Burke in new pounds 30,000 probe" we
published a report on pages one, two and three concerning Mr Denis
O'Brien, the well-known businessman. In that
report we falsely stated an anonymous allegation had been made to the
Flood Tribunal (as it then was) that Mr O'Brien had made a donation of
pounds 30,000 to Ray Burke when he was Communications Minister and
responsible for the allocation of radio licences in Ireland. We also stated that Mr O'Brien's application for a licence for 98FM was successful. We acknowledge Mr O'Brien made no donation of any description to Mr Burke and withdraw any suggestion to the contrary. We also wrongly stated that Mr Burke was then responsible for the allocation of radio licences in Ireland. In
fact the Independent Radio and Television Commission was and remains
the statutory body which oversees the granting of such licences. We
accept that our report was understood to mean that Mr O'Brien may have
been guilty of conduct that warranted investigation by the Flood
Tribunal and acknowledge that as a result the report was false and
defamatory of him. We withdraw any suggestion that
Mr O'Brien acted in an unethical or improper manner or that he had done
anything that warranted investigation by the Flood/Mahon Tribunal. We
unreservedly apologise to Mr O'Brien for the distress caused by our
report and we acknowledge that he is entitled to a substantial sum in
damages and to legal costs.
profile that appeared Monday on Page 1C in conjunction with Hispanic
Heritage Month misquoted Georgetown County's Parks and Recreation
Director Peter Selikowitz. It should have said Selikowitz describes
himself as a "world citizen." Link
And what was he quoted as saying? "I am a work citizen." The article is still online with the error, though the correction is also online. So maybe he's an "annoyed citizen" now.
PROTESTING PLANS by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to lay
a wreath at the World Trade Center attack site, the New York Daily News
told the Iranian president in a headline to "Go to Hell." A Politics & Economics article yesterday incorrectly said the headline was in the New York Post.
Because of an editing error, an article on Saturday about political
fund-raising among Americans living abroad appeared to misstate the
relationship between several Republican candidates and a company that
checks donors’ backgrounds. The company has been retained by the
candidates, not retrained by them. Also because of an editing error,
the article at one point misstated the surname of one of the
candidates. He is John McCain, not Cain. Link
Earlier this morning, we received word via email that Claude Jean Bertrand, professor emeritus at the University of Paris II, died on September 21. As the message noted, "He promoted the concept of Media Ethics, Accountably Systems and Deontology in foundations of democracy, the world over."
Bertrand was a pioneer in devising the concept of a "Media Accountability System."
According to a definition he provided to the editor of this site, a MAS is a "non-governmental means of inducing media and journalists to respect the ethical rules set by the profession. They are extremely diverse but all aim at improving news media, using evaluation, monitoring, education, feedback and communication."
Bertrand cataloged well over 100 MAS in use by individuals, groups and media outlets. Examples of MAS include an in-house ombudsman, an external fact checking organization, or the letters to the editor page. Bertrand showed that there were many ways to provide media accountability. His work was important for its advocacy of accountability, and for highlighting the role that those inside and outside the press can play in helping achieve it.
In January of this year, he replied to some email questions about corrections as a MAS. His thoughts didn't make it into the Regret the Error book, but we provide them here. We offer our condolences to his family.
As a MAS, how effective do you think corrections are? As you can see from my list of about 120 MAS, many aim at correcting errors. It is basic, both by the rectification itself and by the pressure it puts on media and on journalists to be more careful.
As I see it, the problem [with] the worst media is what they don't do, if only by covering only the visible part of reality (what I call "iceberg journalism"). So correcting errors is basic but not enough by far, unless corrections cover omissions too. Would you consider that Project Censored (admittedly terribly ideological since Carl Jensen left it) corrects errors?
Do you have suggestions as to how to make them better? Not only [should] there should be far more correctors (blogs, journalism reviews, media columns, in-house critics, ombudsmen and their columns, etc) at local, regional and national levels, but their corrections should be better known. Most people do not surf the media-oriented blogs. And yet salvation can only come from the public, in cooperation with professionals: not much can be expected from owners and politicians. How [can we] get at least an activist minority of enlightened citizens to become protagonists in social communication?
Journalists should know more about MAS and do more to create as many of them as possible. That would gradually increase the general interest in media and widen the public exposure to corrections. Alas, a major obstacle to media improvement is the hostility of journalists to many MAS in the name of freedom. Another is their pathological individualism which forbids them from using professional solidarity as a force for progress.
The one efficient way to achieve better public awareness of errors and corrections is probably to get media themselves to post their errors with corrections, as the British Guardian does every day. Cyber-correctors [such as blogs] must acquire a reputation as sensible, knowledgeable, reliable, unbiased. And journalists must (through their unions and associations) convince their employer that credibility (hence long-term profitability) is based on accuracy, and [that] admitting mistakes increases credibility.
Do you consider error prevention to be a form of MAS? Prevention is something else again. That implies fact-checking before publication, which I am told is done less and less for financial reasons. It also implies greater expertise on the part of reporters, obtained by specialized education, continuous training and professional experience -- but from what I know, again to save money (even in the US where news media profits are more than double the European average), old journalists are let go to be replaced by greenhorns, while the Stanford Knight Fellowships kind of mid-career improvement has not multiplied over the last 30 years.
Editor's Note: This post was reformatted post-publication to make it easier to read.