Tuesday, July 10, 2007
*Knocks on wood*
I've never had a correction, and that's probably because I haven't had to report a great deal of stories that require me to fetch multi-layered, complex information. I'll get back to that.
Because in high school, I didn't see what the big deal was about a correction. So, you got something wrong in a story. Big deal.
Michael Holley, then of the Boston Globe, pretty much told me that because I'm African-American and a male that I had to be extra careful. Check everything. Three times.
"Here's the deal about corrections," he told me, chomping a ketchup-drenched french-fry at T. Anthony's in Boston. "With each one, you lose your credibility as a journalist. And all you have as a journalist is your credibility."
I'm 23 and I have never, to my knowledge, so much as spelled a person's name wrong in a story. Does this mean I'm overdue? I was pondering that thought this afternoon while reporting a story about an East Quogue, NY resident who makes birdhouses and signs out of salvaged materials from demolished houses. He mentioned rackling some materials from a mansion that I can't say for sure has ever existed on Long Island, save for a few random allusions that come up when you do a Google search. I wasn't satisfied.
My paper's (you can guess what paper that is by now, no?) library told me to take a look at a book called The Mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast. I looked on the book's accompanying website and still didn't find it.
I had the perfect, or perhaps, imperfect formula: relying upon local histories and a bad Google search. I wasn't willing to chance it, especially when I know that there are niche experts hanging around who recite the names of these things at wine tastings in the Hamptons for fun. Show me a correction and I'll show you a shaky foundation, source or story idea.
In the past I would have taken the entire graf in question out before my editor ever saw it. That habit probably has something to do with why I have never had a correction run that I was responsible for. But I'm going to report this one out. Why?
I've come to think a correction can serve as a rite of passage, and whether you've had one or not, going around trying to avoid them isn't going to make you a better reporter. (Let the church say -- ) But, then I read this quote from Don Wycliff, formerly Public Editor of the Chicago Tribune. And I have second thoughts.
"We had some disagreement about how to treat corrections, about how to handle reporters that make [a] number of errors," he said in comment published on Poynter.org, in which he then did what is known as keeping it real: "If you make more than your share of corrections, no matter who you are, you're in deep shit."continue...