January 14, 2004

The Edgy Enthusiast

"I'm talking about factual errors, quotation errors and, to some extent, conceptual errors and how to correct them. I've been thinking about this subject for a number of reasons. For one thing, the new realm of the "blogosphere" has focused attention in a more vigilant way on the errors made by "dead-tree journalists"--and by other bloggers as well. The ease of making corrections on the Web has made the exposure of errors made by dead-tree journalists--and the pressure to correct those errors--greater than ever. And it has opened up a whole new set of questions about the correction of errors. For instance, should a dead-tree publication correct its errors on its Web site as well as its hard-copy edition? Should an effort be made to attach corrections to the LexisNexis version of a piece? And even if one did that, is it possible to chase the uncorrected versions of a story proliferating on Web sites in the expanding universe of cyberspace outside a gated community on the Web like LexisNexis?

In addition, the Year of the Error has brought us the rise in prominence and influence of ombudsmen at major metropolitan dailies, culminating with The Times naming a "public editor," in part to respond to readers' complaints of error, although his brief extends to the tricky gray errors of emphasis, balance, agenda and judgment as well." [emphasis added]

Ron Rosenbaum, writing in the New York Observer.

Is this where we say something like "the blogosphere gets results!" ie. blogs are playing a real role in fostering greater accountability among print journalists and, on a more basic level, represent a democratizatization of information flows in our madcap, frenzied 24-hour media cycle?

Read the whole thing, including the bit about Rosenbaum's new self-imposed "Two Minute Warning" routine.

Oh, and fellow bloggers out there--mull over the specific queries quoted below too.

Isn't it time to begin institutionalizing greater accountability norms in the blogosphere too--without overly hampering/constraining its free-wheeling, 'frontierish' vibe?

"And even though bloggers can almost instantaneously self-correct or "update," some of them do it in separate posts, leaving the problem of many people linking to an earlier, error-marred post before the error is noticed and corrected--and so the beta version, so to speak, escapes beyond correction. Should bloggers somehow link to all those who linked to them before they corrected the error to make them aware of the correction after it's made? I don't even know if that's possible (ed. note: this helps, no?)

I don't have the answers to all these questions. I just raise them because I'd like to hear what other people who think about these things (journalists, bloggers, J-schools and readers) have to say--and because evolving some rough standards might make things fairer for readers and writers alike. So take it away, Jack Shafer of Slate, Jay Rosen of N.Y.U., Cynthia Cotts of The Voice--blogger pioneers Mickey Kaus, Jeff Jarvis and Glenn Reynolds--all you smart people who think about these things--take it away, please. I'm sick of my Two-Minute Warning Syndrome."

Glenn?

UPDATE: Glenn has some cogent thoughts on all this. As he is a lawyer, it's perhaps no surprise that he ends up, ultimately, with some kind of reasonableness standard vis-a-vis broaching general "Department of Corrections" issues.

Like Glenn, for instance, I think it would be self-important and unreasonable to, each time you delete a harsh word here or there (typically on cooler reflection), feel compelled to update your post accordingly by explictly noting the deletion or change of the offensive word(s).

But all this can still be tricky. Glenn writes:

"If the error is minor, and I notice it very shortly after a post, I'll just go back and fix it in the text."

What's "minor"? What's "very shortly"?

Put differently, what makes a Beeb "stealth correction" more nefarious than, say, a Sully or Reynolds one?

Ultimately, I agree with Glenn--the best you can likely do is shoot for a judicious reasonableness standard in all this.

But, and following on from Rosenbaum's piece, one wonders if a slightly more formalized enunciation of a standard Blogosphere corrections policy (employing, perhaps, some of Glenn's approaches/suggestions) shouldn't get a bit more thought out there.

Also not yet really addressed, how best to attribute original content taken from one blog that migrates to another (or what to do where there is no attribution). There's an amorphous lexicon of "hat tips" and such--but some thinking here wouldn't hurt either.

MORE: Yglesias has more.

Oh, and and I'm now looking at his blog pic in a whole new light and imagining Matt as some sort of giant or such!

Who knew that such such fearsome, left-leaning creatures bestride the Beltway?

Posted by Gregory at January 14, 2004 12:53 PM
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