Corrections, fact checking and accountability: Our new approach

26 Oct

We’ve talked a lot (and hopefully done a lot) over the past year about bringing more openness and transparency into the way we operate our newsrooms.

This week, we are launching new “Fact Check” blogs at our three daily newspapers in Connecticut with an aim of more transparency in how we handle errors and engaging readers in an ongoing conversation about our accuracy and approach to reporting.

I can’t think of a more important starting point for openness than how our reporters and editors handle mistakes and corrections, and we’ve taken some big steps this week to improve that process.

Last year, we launched a “Fact Check” box at the bottom of every story appearing on the New Haven Register, Middletown Press and Register Citizen websites. It was a simple but very visible statement of accountability to our readers and sources, inviting them to challenge the facts of our stories, to point out errors, to show us missing context.

Earlier this year, after the Washington Post did the same, but greatly improved the format, The Register Citizen switched to a longer-format version that encouraged readers to not just point out the error, but suggest ways that we could expand or improve the story, other sources we should talk to, etc. It also encourages readers to leave their name and email address so that we can follow up with more questions or confirmation that the error has been fixed. And it includes an “opt-in” asking readers if they would be willing for us to contact them as a potential source or fact checker on future stories about the topic in question.

This week, we added the improved, longer-form Fact Check to the New Haven and Middletown websites. We also have posted a detailed, written corrections policy on each of our sites.

Key parts of that policy include making lots of corrections (a comprehensive approach, from misspelled names to major errors), telling readers what we got wrong instead of just vaguely admitting a mistake, listing the correction at the bottom of the story in question instead of just quietly “fixing” the mistake on the web, and creating an easy place to find a listing of all corrections we make.

So now, in addition to being listed at the bottom of stories, corrections will live on “Fact Check” blogs – click here for New Haven Register, click here for the Middletown Press and click here for The Register Citizen. You can also find the corrections and blogs easily by typing NHRegister.Com/corrections, MiddletownPress.Com/corrections or RegisterCitizen.Com/corrections.

But the blogs will also be used to fill a key missing piece in our “Fact Check” program – transparency and communication on what happens after you submit one of those Fact Check reports. Up until now, it hasn’t been clear to people who submit a report whether it was ignored, acted upon, debated in the newsroom, or what. We intend to use the new blogs to explain what we do with these reports, including when we decide that a Fact Check report is unfounded and we stick by our original story.

We also want to peel back the curtain and be open with our entire readership about how often we are being challenged and on what.

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5 Responses to “Corrections, fact checking and accountability: Our new approach”

  1. BeccaL October 27, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    This is a wonderful way for us readers to identify whether the post is based on facts and allows other readers to add additional information that have been missed out.

    • mattderienzo October 27, 2011 at 8:23 am #

      Thank you for the comment. That is indeed the hope. We’ve been amazed at how much better our reporting can be by opening ourselves to the knowledge readers have to offer. We’ve recently started sharing our “story budgets” ahead of time with readers, so that they can be involved even at the start of our reporting process.

  2. Maggie October 27, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    May this approach spread across the country’s print and in some way spoken news media. What a bold move. One that may, once again, give credibility to journalism in this century.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Community engagement can reveal big gap in newsroom, audience perceptions « Connecticut Newsroom - November 4, 2011

    [...] my belief in the “Fact Check” box we have placed at the bottom of every story, and our recent launch of a blog that handles corrections more transparently and explains how we’ve handled Fact Check reports. We can build trust the more we invite them [...]

  2. Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe celebrates one-year anniversary « Connecticut Newsroom - December 16, 2011

    [...] Connecticut Newsroom blog, “Corrections, Fact Checking and Accountability: Our New Approach,” October 26, 2011 [...]

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