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We Regret the Error


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Mass media outlets depend on credibility. Reporting the truth, fairly and accurately, is important to the long-term viability of any media outlet. Get more information from Craig Silverman at …

Mass media outlets depend on credibility. Reporting the truth, fairly and accurately, is important to the long-term viability of any media outlet. Get more information from Craig Silverman at

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  • 1. We Regret the Error By Bradley Wilson, Ph.D.
  • 2. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2008 l The Midwest’s largest reporting team l 24 hours at 75¢ CITY & SUBURBS, $1.00 ELSEWHERE—162ND YEAR NO. 290 © CHICAGO TRIBUNE C CN CS N NNW NRW NS NW S SSW W D CAMPAIGN 2008: THE FINAL DEBATE In their 3rd clash, McCain and Obama spar on taxes, the economy, campaign ads—and how to best help Joe the plumber Democratic nominee Barack Obama (left) and GOP rival John McCain (right) spar Wednesday night in their final presidential debate. Bob Schieffer of CBS News (center) moderated. RON EDMONDS/AP Faceoff launches the closing 20-day slog in marathon presidential campaign Fighting to the finish PAGE 31 Wereview thenew Google phone Vote and tell us why at chicago Who won the debate? The Dow Jones industrial average suffers its second-worst point drop after a grim retail sales report rattles investors and stokes fears that a punishing recession is looming—or already here. PAGE 33 And back down it goes -733.08 IN BUSINESS A Tribune analysis of how both candidates tried to land jabs and deflect criticism. PAGE 14 MORE COVERAGE 4KEY DEBATE MOMENTS Candidates let the truth go astray on negative campaign ads, tax-cut promises and budget restraint. PAGE 14 A quick fact check Two of the more than 40 stories posted Wednes- day by our new Breaking News Center came from reader tips. If you have a tip for us, send it to or call 312-222-3540. To get the latest news 24/7, go to “Broader economic recovery will not hap- pen right away,” Fed chief warns. PAGE 33 Lengthy downturn feared Experts say gasoline costs tend to climb like a rocket but fall like a feather. The prices stay stubbornly high for a variety of rea- sons, from the oil indus- try beefing up profits to hurricanes disrupting supply. PAGE 4 NEWS FOCUS Why gas prices don’t fall faster 7 A.M. 44 NOON 53 6 P.M. 49 TOM SKILLING’S FORECAST See Tom Skilling’s forecast on the back of Live! SECTION 3 Seems like whenever you turn around, there’s a sympathetic face from the government feeling your economic pain. At the same time, they’re telling you to open your wallet. The latest requests came Wednesday from Mayor Richard Daley, the Toll Authority and Pace. Earlier this year, Chicago-area sales taxes were raised twice. PAGES 20, 22 Illinois tollway Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the tollway want to create commuter lanes that will cost you more if you’re driving solo or piloting a truck. The city Mayor Daley is asking you to pay more to park downtown or go to a ballgame. Other hikes? Parking passes, ambulan- ces and overdue books. Pace Officials are seeking a 25-cent bus fare hike to $1.75. (Last week, CTA sought a 50-cent hike to as much as $2.25 for bus and train fares.) CHICAGOLAND Another day, another proposed fee increase By Jill Zuckman and John McCormick TRIBUNE CORRESPONDENTS HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.—A newly aggressive Sen. John McCain clashed repeatedly with Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday over rais- ing taxes in a tough economy, the nasty tenor of each campaign and a former 1960s radical activist turned Chicago professor. It was the last debate before the final 20- day slog until Election Day. And it was the last time the two candidates were likely to face off before one becomes the president- elect and the other returns to the Senate. For both candidates, the third of their three debates could not have been more im- portant—or tense. McCain needed to knock Obama off-balance and divert the direction of the campaign, which has been trending toward Obama according to public opinion polls. Obama needed to stick to his message of change and hope. Obama mostly remained calm in the face of McCain’s onslaught, sometimes even laughing at him. But the Democratic nomi- nee was forced to spend time defending and explaining his plans, his policies, his sup- porters and even himself. Taking center stage at the debate at Hof- stra University was a plumber named Joe from Ohio who was invoked so often during Please turn to Page 14 Chris Jones says Chicago’s version is fresh and funnier than ever. Plus: Leanne Marshall wins “Project Runway.” live! Breaking News online A lot of love for ‘Forbidden Broadway’ Product: CTMAIN PubDate: 10-16-2008 Zone: ALL Edition: HD Page: CMAIN1-1 User: rhochgesang Time: 10-15-2008 23:54 Color: CMYK
  • 3. DATA SOURCE: NEWSPAPER ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA 1973 63,147 1945 48,384 ! 2011 44,421 ! Newspaper circulation
  • 4. People are generally skeptical of the news from all media, but find newspapers the most credible, followed by online news and lastly television. Credibility
  • 5. •Whig/Tory newspapers •Yellow journalism — sensationalism triumphed over factual reporting; Term comes from late 1800s when Joseph Pulitzer’s New York Globe competed with William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal American History
  • 6. Barack and Michelle fought long and hard 
 about this decision (to run for president) before they made it. FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES. We Regret the Error
  • 7. FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES. Barack and Michelle thought long and hard 
 about this decision (to run for president) before they made it. We Regret the Error
  • 8. In an article in Monday’s newspaper, there may have been a misperception about why a Woodstock man is going to Afghanistan on a voluntary mission. Kevin DeClark is going to Afghanistan to gain life experience to become a police officer when he returns, not to shoot guns and blow things up. The Sentinel-Review apologizes for any embarrassment this may have caused. SENTINEL-REVIEW (WOODSTOCK, ONTARIO) We Regret the Error
  • 9. A HEADLINE in Monday’s Daily News, “He regrets his role in ‘postal’ vid,” implied that Richard Marino, the subject of a YouTube video, was sorry for an incident in December at a Brooklyn post office. Marino, in fact, is not sorry. The News regrets the error. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS We Regret the Error
  • 10. In yesterday’s column about badminton, I misspelled the name of Guatemalan player Kevin Cordon. I apologize. In my defense, I want to note that in the same column I correctly spelled Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarak, Poompat Sapkulchananart and Porntip Buranapraseatsuk. So by the time I got to Kevin Cordon, my fingers were exhausted. MIAMI HERALD
 COLUMN BY DAVE BARRY We Regret the Error
  • 11. We said that, in the American TV drama 24, Jack Bauer, the counter-terrorism agent, resorted to electrocution to extract information. You cannot extract information from someone who has been electrocuted because they are dead (Questioning, the Jack Bauer way, page 1, April 19). THE GUARDIAN We Regret the Error
  • 12. @darrenrovell cup of the day? At Temple vs ND mHhd0VKcBs ! 2:12 PM - 31 Aug 2013
  • 13. As a possible running mate, the Associated Press noted that John McCain was considering Sen. Joe Lieberman, “the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.” ASSOCIATED PRESS We Regret the Error
  • 14. ASSOCIATED PRESS As a possible running mate, the Associated Press noted that John McCain was considering Sen. Joe Lieberman, “the Democratic vice presidential pick in 2000 who now is an independent.” We Regret the Error
  • 15. We Regret the Error HUNTSVILLE TIMES 2013
  • 17. 2013
  • 18. Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published on April 21 in the Independent Saturday magazine, Ms. Blair’s representatives have told us that she was friendly with but never had a relationship with Carole Caplin of the type suggested in the article. They want to make it clear, which we are happy to do, that Ms. Blair “has never shared a shower with Ms. Caplin, was not introduced to spirit guides or primal wrestling by Ms. Caplin (or anyone else), and did not have her diary masterminded by Ms. Caplin.” INDEPENDENT SATURDAY (UK) MAGAZINE We Regret the Error
  • 19. We Regret the Error In the article, “How does Ballard stack up in residential burglaries?” The Ballard News-Tribune made an egregious error. Reporter Zachariah Bryan wrote, “There’s not quite as many sailors picking fights at dive bars (if you excuse the incident at the Ballard Smoke Shop where a visiting tourist got a glass smashed in his face during Syttende Mai).” However, as one astute reader pointed out, this incident did not occur inside the Ballard Smoke Shop. It started up the street — the originating bar is not confirmed — and worked its way down, ending outside the Smoke Shop. The reader informed The Ballard News-Tribune, “The bartenders at the Smoke Shop do not tolerate rowdiness and fighting. They do not over serve their customers and they keep a watchful eye out for trouble.” The reporting was irresponsible, based on hearsay and partially the result of a tired brain. We apologize for the error. BALLARD NEWS-TRIBUNE (SEATTLE, WASH.), 2013
  • 20. 1. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, style 2. Math/methodology errors 3. Incomplete reporting 4. Bad sourcing 5. News judgment errors 6. Falsehoods and plagiarism Types of errors
  • 21. Typos Names, grades, majors, titles Punctuation AP Style Errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, style
  • 22. We Regret the Error “When Redding, a longtime scout for Playboy, discovered (Anna Nicole) Smith, the model could barely right a sentence…” HOUSTON CHRONICLE
  • 23. Numbers not in context Complex information made into sound bite Math errors
  • 24. In one report we had an Olympic swimming pool holding 1,000 megalitres. And in another report we had 40,000 US “gleaners” filling 80,000 4-6 kg sacks with 250 kg of vegetables – a minuscule 6 g per person. We still don’t know what we meant. THE GUARDIAN Math errors
  • 25. Incomplete reporting Highlighting “sexy” part of story and missing the overall tone of the event, study, etc Reporter leaves event early, doesn’t get complete picture Reporter does an easy story instead of an investigation Failure to verify name, grade, major, title
  • 26. We Regret the Error
  • 27. Bad sourcing Source lies Source’s information is wrong but “too good to check” Reporter doesn’t challenge information a source provides or doesn’t verify information with other sources Reporter uses poor sources
  • 28. Bad news judgment “Important but boring” story not covered Management decides to spike story even though facts are solid Story repeated so often, it seems worse than it is Headline overstates facts Story placement
  • 29. Falsehoods and plagiarism Reporter makes up information or uses information from other sources without crediting them Internet makes it easier to plagiarize because you can cut and paste parts of others’ stories and artwork
  • 30. Sports Illustrated, December, 2012
  • 31. The battlefield composite photo above was made by combining the two photos at the left. The photographer who combined the photos for the Los Angeles Times without telling anyone was fired the next day and the paper issued an apology.
  • 32. Bridge collapse breaking news • NBC News • May 2013
  • 33. We Regret the Error February, 2007 • The Michigan Daily, a student newspaper, fired a writer after discovering plagiarism in four articles. April 2007 • The Daily Pennsylvanian, a student newspaper, fired a columnist after one of her submissions “bore uncanny similarities to a Yahoo! Food piece from March.” November 2007 • A columnist at the Brown Daily Herald, a student newspaper, was fired after editors discovered that six of his columns included plagiarized material. The same writer also plagiarized in a letter to the editor that was published in the New York Times
  • 34. • 44% said the media are “often inaccurate.” • 51% said they “usually get the facts straight.” • 74% said they saw political bias. • 33% said they “deal fairly with all sides” • 65% said it was NOT the journalist’s job to point out “inaccuracies and distortion in statements of public figures.” Credibility HARRIS POLL
  • 35. How were errors caught? • Background check on reporter • Fact-checkers or other editors discover errors/ plagiarism/fabrication • Internal review • Sources in story come forward • Subject of story files a lawsuit • Another publication tries to follow up • Bloggers challenge sources
  • 36. The public is holding us accountable. What you can do: Spell check. Edit. Rewrite. Fact check. Second guess. Be skeptical. Require multiple sources. Thoughts
  • 37. Ramifications of errors Termination of employment Lawsuits Loss of credibility—both for reporters and for news organizations Internal investigations by news organizations
  • 38. Policy PURPOSE: As repeated studies of media consumers have shown, factual errors corrode the credibility of media publishing the mistakes. The student media Code of Ethics states: “CORRECTIONS: All student media are obligated to correct any error they make as soon as possible, no matter the level of consequence for the error. The corrections should be in a fixed, consistent location in the publication.”
  • 39. Form Although the specifics may vary depending on the circumstances, in general, a correction will take the form: “In ‘<headline>’ (p. <#>, <date>), the <name of publication> <correction without restating error when possible>. The <name of publication> regrets the error.” When a source believes they have been misquoted or otherwise attributed to mis-statements, but the editor/general manager, after consultation with the reporter, believes the published statements were correct, a clarification may take the general form: “In ‘<headline>’ (p. <#>, <date>), the <name of publication> <what we said.> In subsequent interviews with <sources>, they state <what they now state>. The <name of publication> stands behind the original publication.” Policy
  • 40. When a correction or clarification is made online to a story that appeared in print, the publication will note that in an editor's note to appear at the top of the online version of the article. “Information in this article, originally published <date> has been corrected. <State correction without restating error when possible.>” Policy
  • 41. Resources • • • • • • • local ombudsman