Asking a reporter to publish or broadcast a correction is one of those things that clients loathe to do. They fret and worry about the relationship. They sense that if a reporter is notified that something is amiss in their copy, the person will feel personally assaulted – wounded – and taken to task. Knowing when to ask media for a correction should be simple.
Why should you ask for corrections?
Reporters want to be accurate.
Reporters want to tell the truth (as they know it based on the information provided or uncovered).
Reporters (generally) want to be fair to all sides in a conflict or controversy.
But corrections should be requested or insisted upon when the facts are wrong – and only when facts are wrong.
Here are examples ripped from the newsroom that don’t merit corrections:
Another person or source was quoted more.
(Very nitpicky unless the story really is one-sided or uses only one source. One source posts have become unfortunately much more common in the era of social media.)
You didn’t use everything I told you.
(No reporter is required to post everything you said and provided. The editorial discretion of what to use and share rests solely with the journalist.)
I don’t like the “slant” of the story, article, broadcast or post.
(Also tough noogies here. And this probably means you did not explain your position well either or you were the last to commit to an interview.)
Here are examples ripped from the newsroom that merit a posted correction:
My title is wrong.
(Yes, titles matter. A statement from a CEO carries different weight than from an unidentified spokesperson. If an unidentified spokesperson is used, that means someone didn’t want to do an interview and not much new information was provided.)
I don’t like the interpretation of words used.
(An example of words often switched are “profit” and “revenue.” These are words with very different meanings.)
The description of my agency or organization is incorrect.
(Does your company have 500 employees or 5,000? Oops on the zeroes, but it does happen.)
Commonly used newsroom excuses for not posting a correction:
I’ll check with my editor.
(This means likely it won’t happen. Ask for the editor’s name and follow up yourself.)
We will determine if a correction is warranted.
(If important facts are wrong, they’re wrong. Due to the prominence of online content, an egregious error should always be corrected or will remain online forever. Once used, often repeated.)
I’m writing a follow-up article and will correct the information there.
(Nope. Not a fix. The error needs to be corrected on the original post. Why? Someone who refers to that for content may miss the tracking from one article to another.)
I’ll get in trouble.
(This one is simply not true, though some reporters are dinged on their reviews if their clips track with a history of errors. Still, that is not your issue. Your issue remains – correcting an error.)
Just remember that accuracy is the most important rule of the day – both for those whose stories are being told by the media and f or the media.
And for your reading pleasure, here are some whoppers:
Why we wrote this column: At least three people have asked us in the course of one week about corrections and how to handle (or cope) with media when asking. It shouldn’t be traumatic. And reporters who do their jobs well will comply.