Mistakes happen. What matters is how student journalists handle such situations. Student editors should correct errors as quickly and visibly as possible. Sometimes this means correcting a print error on a website and then following up in the next issue.
Staff manual process
When a reader or viewer has identified an error, students should check first to see whether the information truly is erroneous. In addressing the mistake, the correction should identify the error, provide the correct information, explain how the error was made and detail what will be done to prevent future errors.
Transparency about what went wrong will help to restore credibility after a mistake is made. Students should know when to make corrections and when (if ever) to remove online stories entirely.
• In addition to printing a correction, student editors should reflect on the writing, editing and post-production process that allowed the error to occur. What should change to keep this from happening again?
• A news website should include a logical mechanism so readers can report errors or inaccurate information. If this generates an email to a shared account, students should have a system in place for checking the account regularly.
• Students should have a system in place for fact-checking reported errors, rather than taking someone’s word at face value.
• Students should create a designated fact-checker position on staff, or rotate students through the position for each publication cycle.
• When students determine an online correction is necessary, they should update the information accordingly and add an editor’s note, preferably at the beginning of the article, about when and why the correction was made. This act of transparency holds students accountable and provides readers with as much information as possible, rather than hiding the original error.
• Students should develop specific guidelines for correcting misinformation that appears in the publication’s social media accounts.
• Student editors should have a system in place for the rare online mistake they deem significant and serious enough to warrant immediate removal of content. For example, editors may choose to remove a story and issue a statement about why they took that action.
Why Journalists Make Mistakes & What We Can Do About Them, The Poynter Institute
Made a Mistake? Advice for Journalists On Online Correction, The Poynter Institute
To Err is Human, to Correct Divine, American Journalism Review
Correction Strategies: 6 Good Questions With Regret the Error’s Craig Silverman, American Press Institute
Audio: Correcting Errors, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute
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