One of the things that came up at the recent SPJ Airplay event was the need for a decent corrections policy. Absent some sort of financial or other penalty process there’s currently little or nothing to stop an online publication putting out nonsense and then putting out a small retraction or amendment later when it’s already too late. It’s certainly possible for a publication to blatantly lie and make a big noise about it, and then to retract near-silently.
Any policy is also unenforcible, but in the spirit of the positivity after Airplay here’s some ideas on how such a policy could be enacted.
Step One: Correction
One of the beauties of the internet is that material can be edited live. If an article has made a wrong assertion, accusation or other problem it can be actively changed – immediately. There’s no need to wait for a new edition or anything like that. This is a two-edged sword however, given that this also allows for mistakes to be covered up.
As such an article should be corrected, but the mistake should also be acknowledged. Correct the article in the body of the text, but acknowledge and spell out the mistakes and apologise for them at the head of the original article.
Step Two: Publication
Part of the problem with corrections is their lack of reach. The corrections never travel as far as the original story. As such the full, corrected story as well as existing as a correction should probably get its own publication with the full front-page, social media promotion treatment that a new story would. This would mean that the same story would effectively be published twice and both would now be the corrected versions – and this would happen as many times as corrections would be needed.
This is not a perfect solution, but as a policy it helps ensure that mistakes are not covered up and takes advantage of the way internet publication and social media work to try and ensure the maximum spread and to encourage good practice in order to avoid making mistakes and having multiple versions of the same article up.