Mistakes happen. Years ago, a journalist amended the old Frank Lloyd Wright quote about doctors and architects to read something like this:
“Doctors bury their mistakes; we print ours on the front page.”
Well, we print them on other pages, too. But when those mistakes are on the front page – or really, with today’s digital distribution, on any page – they are there for the world to see.
You see them. You point them out. We run a correction. And regret for the error. And often, we apologize to the aggrieved or the person who calls to point out the transgression.
You might have noticed a correction on the front page of The Augusta Chronicle about 10 days ago. Front-page corrections are rare, but the lead and headline on the article were wrong. Our reporter and the source had a serious miscommunication, or maybe a series of them.
We ran the correction in the same spot as the error. That box prompted a three-minute message on my answering machine. The caller said she saw a number in the paper asking people to point out our mistakes.
She had found one in a caption below a photo on that day’s Metro front and she was pointing it out.
Others noticed it, too, judging by your phone calls and mailings. I enjoyed the anonymous page mailed back with the clever “let’s send the writer back to Grammar School” scrawled across the photograph.
That corrections box and phone number have been on Page 2A of this newspaper since August 1989. It is also the spot where we have printed most corrections since, replacing the “Getting It Right” feature that appeared on the bottom of the Metro front previously.
Comedians and others have poked fun of newspaper mistakes for years, most notably Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. I remember the phone calls from friends when they saw a Chronicle photo mistake back in the late 1990s.
Newspapers like to poke a little fun at themselves as well. The New York Times published a book back in 2002, Kill Duck Before Serving, that was a humourous account of their errors throughout the years.
I don’t know of any other news medium that works so consistently to get the facts right and correct its mistakes. If you read The Chronicle digitally, the stories are corrected and a note is on the top explaining the mistake and what the corrective action is.
Please look at the top left of Page 2A each day. If mistakes have been brought to our attention – beyond the typo or grammatical miscalculation – they will be there.
It is important that you find them. Journalism is an imperfect process, and mistakes happen. But the transparency of our imperfection and setting the record straight are very important.
If you turn to Page 2A today, you’ll see a correction on a mistake I made in last week’s column about who made the Adam Scott video. My apologies to Scott Michaux.