Washington Post updates its online corrections policies

A Washington Post online corrections memo that went out Wednesday morning tells staffers:

* “We should never ‘unpublish’ stories from the Web.”
* “Placement for corrections reflects gravity of error. A serious error must be noted at the top of the story, blog or graphic.”
* “Clarifications should be rare and must be approved by the editor-in-chief, or managing editors.”

The memo:

Date: January 16, 2013, 6:05:02 AM PST
To: NEWS – All Newsroom
Subject: Online Correction Policies

In an effort to ensure that errors online are corrected as quickly as possible, we want to clarify our standards in this area and announce some changes to the process.
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* We are committed to accuracy and transparency. We generally revise the story to make it accurate AND append a correction to the file. Typically, online corrections read like this: “Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported …”

* We should never “unpublish” stories from the Web. Once a story is up, however, the content can be removed with the approval of a senior editor. In those rare cases when we remove the content of a story from the page, it must be replaced with an editor’s note explaining the reason for the deletion. For example if an embargo has been broken, the note would read: “Editors’ Note: This article was published inadvertently and has been
removed.”

* An editor must be involved in cases of substantive errors. Reporters should not ask producers to correct stories. An online correction can be approved by either a section assignment editor or an editor on the Universal Desk. Of course, speed is key. If the assignment editor is not immediately available, e-mail the Universal desk and copy the assignment editor. Editors can find instructions for posting online corrections here.

* The page for submitting corrections on The Source has been updated with two new fields: a box for the URL of the story, and a box for the text of the online correction. Your online correction should already be up by the time you file a correction for the print edition. When copy editors sign off on a print correction, they will check the online correction and change it if the two are not in sync.

* Placement for corrections reflects gravity of error. A serious error must be noted at the top of the story, blog or graphic. For smaller errors, corrections can be appended at the bottom as a footnote, and noted next to the error in the text of the story. In blogs, the tone of the correction can in some cases be made to match the tone of the blog, and a strike-thru is an acceptable alternative. For galleries, photo caption corrections should be placed underneath the photo’s caption. If a correction is needed to reflect the removal of a photo from a gallery, it should appear in the blurb of the gallery. Corrections can be posted directly into a video blurb.

* Clarifications should be rare and must be approved by the editor-in-chief, or managing editors.

Note that contrary to widespread belief, there is no policy against “repeating the error.” We generally do say exactly what was wrong, to make it absolutely clear what is being corrected.

Thank you.

Marty
John
Liz

* Earlier: Best Washington Post correction ever? (jimromenesko.com)

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