Cosmetics instead of Corrections

November 22, 2007 • Ethics and Quality • by

Schweizer Journalist Nr. 10 + 11, 2007, 74

So far, American media seemed the shining example of correction policies: Every newspaper which wants to be taken seriously has a “Corrections Corner” – a column where the newsroom rectifies routinely the reporting errors of the preceding day. 

However, the media researcher Scott R. Maier (University of Oregon) is now adding water to the wine. To assess how frequently inaccurate news stories remain uncorrected, he has analyzed the reporting of the largest ten regional US newspapers, tracing their stories back to the primary news sources mentioned in the articles. He found out that 98 percent of all errors committed remained uncorrected. Thus Maier’s research results raise the question, whether corrections‘ corners make at all sense and are really devoted to the improvement of journalistic quality. Corrections seem to be rather cosmetics.

The study results seem to support all those newsrooms in Europe which have so far resisted to voluntary corrections – but they may also seduce to hasty conclusions. At least Maier’s research should be seen in the context of other studies which clearly confirm that American newspaper readers appreciate corrections and perceive them as a means to regain journalistic credibility. Thus, the challenge for newsroom management may have to be redefined: to give further proof of journalism’s fallibility – and to try on both sides of the Atlantic harder to get at least those errors in a reliable way corrected which are causing seriously disinformation.   

Source: Scott Maier: Tip of the Iceberg: Published Corrections Represent Two Percent of Factual Errors in Newspapers, Präsentation bei der Jahrestagung der AEJMC in Washington, August 2007

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