Correcting errors helps build trust

On April 21, the New York Times ran four corrections. On April 18, the Toronto Star ran five.

No doubt many people have received viral emails containing humorous errors and corrections in the media.

A newspaper accidentally reported that a musician was on drugs, instead of on drums.

Another newspaper reported that a source did not return calls for the story. Turns out she couldn’t. She had died months earlier.

And then there is a newspaper that apologized for congratulating an industrious fellow for “pleasing 15 women for an entire day.” Turns out, he had arranged a shopping trip for them.

This column is an ode to the correction.

I expect all readers have seen them.

The Western Producer runs corrections on Page 2 (and as fast as possible, with the original story online). So what do you — as a reader — think when you open the paper and see a correction?

It is a good thing.

I understand that is counterintuitive. However, as a publisher earlier in my career pointed out, when he saw a newspaper that didn’t have regular corrections, he didn’t trust it. They’re human, and they’re making mistakes like the rest of the human race, he said. They’re just not admitting it.

And that is the gist of it: admitting a mistake and fixing it earns trust.

Most of us played the communications game at school when we were young, passing along a message from one end of a line to the other. What came out was often different from the original.

Our reporters understand this and strive to be accurate and thorough. But sometimes, things go wrong.

People who don’t work in the media might apologize to their boss, or their colleague, or their better half for a mistake. When we make a mistake, we admit it and fix it in front of the world.

It can be a bit tough on the writer and the editor, but any trusted media organization appreciates the need to correct the record.

A correction isn’t so-called “fake news” that is now being used to vilify people. My experience at seven newspapers has been that most corrections are genuine errors by hard-working people trying to do the right thing.

And when we’re wrong, the right thing to do is point it out and set the record straight.

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