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How an online corrections form helps news sites and readers

How an online corrections form helps news sites and readers

Lindsay Kalter | January 15, 2013

When readers spot errors in news online, they often take their complaints directly to an article's comments section.

The result can be messy: actual errors that need correcting, but get lost in a sea of comments, or comments alleging errors that turn out not to be errors at all. But The New York Times may have a solution. It wants to bring clarity to error-reporting by launching a corrections form on its website, writes Poynter's Craig Silverman.

Greg Brock, Times corrections editor, told Journalism.co.uk in a recent podcast that the form will "make it as easy as possible for every reader to report an error" while reducing correction-related comments and e-mails, Silverman reports.

The Times, whose form will launch soon, is one in a string of North American outlets adopting this approach. The Chicago Tribune and Toronto Star both offer correction forms. The Washington Post, Huffington Post and Toronto Star provide links on each story page where readers can report errors, according to Silverman.

The Journal Register Company recently moved its form from the home page to the foot of individual story pages, its group editor, Matt DeRienzo, told Silverman. This means a reader who spots an error no longer must hunt around the site for a place to report it. The change in location created a “big increase” in submissions, DeRienzo said.

Despite the trend toward error forms, it is unclear what constitutes a "correction." Complaints found in comments address issues ranging from spelling mistakes and style errors to story angles, writing quality and choice of subjects. Some are heavy assertions of inaccuracy, some are niggling critiques about sentence structure. It can be difficult to know what readers consider errors, and whether they prefer to address them in a private form or publicly air their grievances.

You can read Silverman's full post here.

Poynter Online, IJNet’s partner and the website of the Poynter Institute, is a school serving journalism and democracy for more than 35 years. Poynter offers news and training that fits any schedule, with individual coaching, in-person seminars, online courses, webinars and more.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.