Asking for a correction from a reporter who gets it wrong can be a tough assignment. With the nature of online information and clicks driving the nation’s conversation, it must be done. Here’s advice on how to ask and receive a correction — and what to expect in the war of facts.
1. Make sure your facts are correct.
There’s nothing worse than bringing an error to light if you’re even a tad off the mark. Keep emotion and tone out of the request. Even if people are upset by an error, 99.9 percent of errors are made without intent. Intent, of course, triggers legal action.
2. Ask politely.
Most reporters like to get their news straight up and without a twist. A good reporter will correct an error ASAP. A bad one will hesitate, ignore the request for a correction, say it will be made in a follow-up article, or say it will be deferred to an unnamed boss or argue.
3. There is a right of appeal.
An appeal generally means going over a reporter’s head and asking the next-level supervisor to make the correction. That generally doesn’t sit well with reporters. So make every effort to reach the original source who made the error as soon as possible and secure a correction.
4. Be very alert.
If the original story with an error is picked up and shared by wire services, such as The Associated Press, or by newsgathering partners, the original error continues to repeat in a variety of places. You need to track all sources down for corrections.
5. Be insistent.
An error is an error. Placement, tone and where your quote lands in an article do not constitute an error. Be straightforward in your appeal and point out what makes the post or broadcast “off” in its entirety (such as missing an important witness in a court hearing who contradicts another).
6. Back it up.
If the original reporter is unavailable, make sure you have documents and information to share with the person you do happen to reach in a newsroom. I’ve called TV news stations late at night to even correct errors broadcast in promos to an upcoming news story. They will need your information to take corrective steps (like pulling a misleading promo).
7. Take next steps if necessary.
If you are unable to receive a correction as requested, make sure you understand your options and next steps. That could mean requesting an op-ed piece in print or meeting with a much higher level contact at a news outlets with your lawyer in attendance.
8. Keep copies.
Keep your own paper trail of the original copy with errors and keep copies of the corrected articles as they appear online or in print. You may need them down the road if you have persistent problems with either one reporter or one media outlet. Tracking is an important outcome for fairness and balance.