Regret the Error

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 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 “fulltime 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 bring 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 atorneys.

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.

0 thoughts on “Regret the Error”

  1. It is a very tricky area, particularly the “ethics” of journalism as we’ve seen with News Corp. Phone hacking is illegal, but is it ethical in a journalistic sense if it exposes wrongdoing by the powerful? Is it ethical if it is used to expose the private lives of the famous?

    The answer to both seems to have been yes because it was only when it was alleged that the phones of ordinary people — the “victims” if you like — that the public became angry.

    Our politicians have made the most of it, partly in revenge for the media laying bear their own scandals, partly for party political motives and partly to pay Murdoch back for influencing the voters.

    I’m re-reading Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch at the moment and it contains a quote by Teddy Roosevelt that is particularly appropriate:

    “The men with the muck-rakes are ofetn indispensible to the well-being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above them, to the crown of worthy endeavor. There are beautiful things above and round about them; and if they gradually grow to feel that the whole world is nothing but muck, their power of usefulness is gone.”


  2. There IS no way to stop it, because it’s all about money – lot and lots of money. Be the First Breaking!Stir the Emotions, Forget the Facts! Emotions plus Commercials equals Revenue!Just another example of how the True Religion of the United States is Corporate Capitalism no matter how they pretend otherwise.


  3. Actually, I once complained to the FCC (under the Bush years, when Colin Powell’s son Michael was the FCC Chair) that FOX had knowingly and erroneously made up some BS about Obama while he was running. I cited journalistic standards that were violated.

    The FCC sent me a SCREAM-O-GRAM (all in caps) that pretty much said anyone can say what they want on the air, and even if they know it’s a lie, the editors and owners know it’s a lie, it can still be called news. To add insult to injury, it was a form letter.

    I find this reprehensible (oh, where art thou, Wordle?!). Also, the relaxing of standards on ownership, in which Murdoch and his ilk were suddenly allowed to own, say, a major paper, a TV station, and several radio stations in one market (allowing the stinkblossom, FOX News, to thrive, along with Rush and Glenn) started when Murdoch began petitioning one city at a time and being allowed special ownership privileges. Apparently, we were distracted by the military operations and didn’t notice they finally made it a blanket deal, so Viacom (Sumner Redstone) could also advance HIS conservative agenda.

    All right. Enough blathering, but I hector my representatives in Congress about this all the time.

    Here’s something that will completely take your mind off all this mishigoss. Thanks, Roger. Amy


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