Archives for posts with tag: corrections

The Washington Post this month entered the arena of crowdsourcing accuracy — and in a big way.

Like the Missourian’s “Show Me the Errors,” the Post has reached out to its readers by asking for fixes. Every article includes a box that says: “Corrections? Suggestions?”

It’s more work to report an error. At the Missourian, you fill in the box and send (if you’re registered). At the Post, the linked page asks you to copy and paste in the URL of the article. You also must check one box for the section the story ran in and another for the kind of mistake: factual, grammatical, punctuation or spelling.

Then you can describe the error.

That’s the awkward part.

The cool part — the one we should consider at the Missourian — asks:

“What do we need to know to improve future stories on this topic?”

Well, that’s just great.

I wouldn’t want to clutter up the Missourian article page much more. Perhaps, though, it could be an invitation added somewhere else (on the “Preview Correction” page?)

What’s so swell about it? To me, it feels more like an invitation to describe the parts that aren’t wrong but aren’t in the article at all — to get at those things that are accurate but incomplete.

Matt DiRienzo of The Register Citizen in Connecticut said these errors of omission are far more extensive. “We don’t go deep enough into a story, or we miss pieces of information and perspective that would change readers’ perception of an issue.” His newspaper also was one of the first to crowdsource corrections.

But wait. There’s more at the Post.

DiRienzo says the paper may be building a new Rolodex of sources:

The Washington Post corrections/fact check page even has a “yes/no” opt-in to the question, “Would you be willing to help with other stories?”, suggesting that the paper is building a foundation for future crowdsourcing efforts, perhaps by specific topic.

This is a huge symbolic shift, I hope, away from the “fortress journalism” that traditional media has clung to even as the web and social media have completely changed the audience dynamic out from under them.

I’m sure there are other examples out there. Show Me the Errors has been a great success since its launch last semester. (It was first formally proposed by a team of students in the Journalism & Democracy course.)

How can we make it even better?

We’re just about a week into the launch of the contest. Here’s Maggie Walter’s report:

Show Me the Errors contest was launched at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Oct. 1. Readers were invited to participate in the contest through the Dear Reader column — published online on Sept. 24 and in print on Sept. 26. Additionally, print editions on Sept. 29 and 30 and Oct. 1 and a banner on Oct. 1 on the website’s home page invited readers to join in.

Set up:
At the end of each story, readers see a submission box for the contest. The submission box also performs three functions:

  • Feeds an e-mail to This includes the originating e-mail so further contact can be made if needed.
  • Sends an automatic reply to the person who submitted the correction.
  • Gathers the sender’s name and e-mail throughout the month in Google analytics so that monthly winners can be determined.

In addition, there is a “what’s this?” link that includes an explanation of Show Me the Errors.

The automatic response states:

Thanks for helping the editors at the Missourian in their efforts to keep the copy as error-free as possible. Your points for the Show Me the Errors contest will be automatically tabulated. An editor will contact you if additional information is needed.

There was an immediate response from various writers, notably Rod Gelatt, about perceived grammatical errors in the column. Other readers also questioned particular word usages and punctuation.

Gelatt’s comment sparked a firestorm of comments in the world of editing and language blogs, in particular John McIntyre’s “You Don’t Say” blog and Mark Liberman’s “Language Log” weblog. As a result of an e-mail exchange with Dean Mills, dean of the Missouri School of Journalism, the contest’s name was changed to Show Me the Errors.

Online readers jumped on the bandwagon to point out errors and needed corrections. As of Oct. 6, there have been about 30 submissions, apparently all valid. Kate McIntyre is leading the pack.

Other issues:
A couple of misdirected comments have shown up in the contest submissions. News desk editors have been directed to contact the writer and ask them to resubmit their comments in the correct place. We’ll be monitoring these incidents to see if they continue and decide if we need to redesign the submission boxes to clarify the situation.

This week, I don’t have much to report. Everyone seems settled with this transition — too settled — but I’m still going to be the annoying gnat in your face, reminding you there’s more to be done.

A big thank you to the design class for commenting on my last post. We are full steam ahead with ideas to improve the print product. We have a very smart, insightful class that isn’t willing to settle simply for what works. Right now, the print product is good, but we’re going to keep making changes and coming up with new ideas all throughout the semester because, as our Friday critique sessions tell us, there’s always room for improvement.

A few questions that came up at last week’s TA meeting were remedied this week. There is now a rough system for making corrections online that were found on the print desk. Print will mark the changes on page proofs, and it is up to the night news editor (who could delegate it to a copy editor) to make sure those fixes are reflected in the online version. For corrections made on a page in InDesign, it’s up to the designers to decide whether the changes even need to be made online (adding a comma here and there can probably slide) or whether they want to go online themselves to make the changes or put corrections in notes mode and ask a TA to do it. More often than not, I see the changes in print being too insignificant to merit taking the time to fix them online, but if you’re a designer twiddling your thumbs until your next story comes in, you might as well get into Django and make all our content squeaky clean.

Also, this week on the print desk, we had a case where our centerpiece was suddenly moved off the budget, and we weren’t informed. I was the 1A designer, waiting and waiting for my story that never came. Luckily, everyone in photo was great and helped me put together a photo package for the centerpiece, but I was still pretty peeved that no one even considered how removing a story from the budget at around 8:30 p.m. would affect print. I don’t want to call anyone out; I just want better communication. How is it that we’re excellent at communicating news to our audience, but there’s such a disconnect in our own newsroom? Sometimes, we can experience such tunnel vision in our own work that we have no idea what our colleagues are doing. We have some great minds in our newsroom, and the more they cross into different areas for a chat, the more ideas will actually develop into something.

Interactive Copy Desk, I’m coming for you this week. Please start thinking about your day-to-day tasks, how online updates are going (read Nick’s post if you haven’t already) and what we need to do to better engage the community. I’ll be in touch.

Things were quiet at today’s TA meeting, so I’ll start the conversation here.

First, now more than ever because print is so separate, there needs to be a system for correcting errors in stories found by the print desk on the website. Currently, when something is corrected on the page, the TAs brought up that no one is quite sure whether it should be the print desk or interactive copy desk that should correct it in the online version. I suppose this could also happen if a story that has already made it to the print desk is corrected online. In this case, someone needs to notify the designers to correct it on the page. But this is an easy fix as long as people know their duties. We’ve also had issues with several stories coming in very close to the print deadline, but as long as the designers are getting constant updates about length and any art that might go along with the story, they should be able to work with that if need be. But if there’s no reason for those stories to be coming in so late, that needs to change. Finally, we’ve had issues with non-sports people working on sports pages and not being entirely comfortable with it; however, we discussed that either Greg or Grant are most always around and can help in those situations.

So, as the outcome of the TA meeting suggested, the transition is going swimmingly, but there’s always room to improve and take our newsroom further. Laura and I had a long talk today about our newsroom withstanding change so well because, as we theorized, it alters drastically every semester anyway with a new crop of reporters, copy editors, designers, photographers, etc.

Because we’re already so resilient to change, I’d really like to see us go to uncharted waters now. And that has to begin with discussion from everyone.

City editors: How is the beat and GA system working this semester? Do you see it changing next semester? What more could reporters be doing to make their stories have better play both on the website and in print?

Photo: What’s up? How has the transition changed the way you function? What else could we be doing to make the website and print more visually interesting?

ACEs: How’s life at the Hub? What are you telling reporters about deadline, and how could we be getting a consistent influx of stories to freshen the website throughout the day?

Nick: I love that you’re telling copy editors to put an “interesting” word in a print headline. What else are they being told about print, and why are they apparently so terrified to come into our little print corner?

Interactive copy desk: Define the interactive part of your job. Now, how can we expand that?

Jake and designers: How can we make the print edition different from the website? Why should people pick up the paper? What more could we be doing? I’m fascinated with an idea I’ve been thinking about that’s probably already been coined somewhere else, but I want to make an interactive print edition. How can we make our paper a service to reader? What can it have that the website doesn’t? If we’re truly going to separate online and print, we need to be offering something more than the same stories readers could find online but in a well-designed paper form.

And everyone else: What are your questions, comments and concerns about the transition or the newsroom in general?

These questions are only scratching the surface of our newsroom potential. We have a gift of being a unique news organization with an abundant staff of young journalists who want to learn. We need to remember besides being a news outlet, we’re also a teaching institution, and if each person in the newsroom could learn something new each day and put it into practice, I don’t see any boundaries on how far we could take this transition.

Please, extend your comments. Ask more questions. Put me in my place. Let’s get a conversation going.