Regret the Error

The lowered standards are a function of cost-cutting, doing it fast, and a different ethos of publishing than what existed in the past.

One of my favorite websites is Regret the Error, which “reports on media corrections, retractions, apologies, clarifications and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in the press. It was launched in October 2004 by Craig Silverman, a freelance journalist, and author based in Montreal.”

Initially, or at least when I first came across the site, it merely linked to the foibles of the press; hey, as the logo notes, “Mistakes happen.” For instance, recently, the New York Times accidentally traded Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees to the Phillies.

But in recent months, the site has taken a more meta approach. For instance, What Typos Mean to Book Publishing bemoans the loss of “full-time copy editors and proofreaders to filter out an author’s mistakes”, shortcuts taken by publishers, and carelessness of authors.

The piece How to Correct Social Media Errors notes that “There’s no good way to notify those who read erroneous information and moved on, believing it to be true,” because most of those who tweeted or Facebooked the error-laden message may not have seen the follow-up.

Last month had a great link, Have newsrooms relaxed standards, sanctions for fabrication and plagiarism?

It seems that the three examples I cited have some factors in common. The lowered standards are a function of cost-cutting, doing it fast, and a different ethos of publishing than what existed in the past.

From the latter story, Poynter’s Kelly McBride says, “Some editors these days seem more willing to overlook minor plagiarism because it almost always involves writers trying to work fast, either because they have additional duties or because they are trying to publish to ride a wave of interest.”

Can these factors – on steroids – have contributed to the News of the World hacking scandal? Were the editors aware of the sources of the stories their reporters were brought to them or did they totally abdicate their responsibilities? Add hubris and a corrupting amount of power, over politicians and police alike, and you have a massive scandal.

More than one pundit has pointed to an ethics clause in the FCC licensing process requiring a licensee to be of “good character”. Could the Murdoch TV empire in the United States crumble?

Given the fact that a former FCC Commissioner could support the massive Comcast/NBC buyout back in January and become a Comcast lobbyist months later, makes me wonder. The former commissioner did seek ethics advice from FCC attorneys.

In ways big and small, I feel that our media outlets have often let us down, not necessarily in a Murdockian manner, but in a more pedestrian fashion. And I’m at a loss to figure out how to stop it.