A Note About Corrections

The Macalope’s still getting his feet wet in this whole blogging thing, but he’s a little confused by the varying standards for corrections.

Two polar opposites seem to be George Ou and Victor Keegan (or, rather, the Guardian).

Say what you want to about Ou (the Macalope certainly does), but he notes corrections in situ (like a man!), which is the policy the Macalope intends to follow.

And there’s good precedent for it. In an email, John Gruber notes:

if it’s a correction, or a significant addition, or somehow changes the meaning, then I call it out somehow. My rule of thumb is — if it’s a change that I would like people who have already read the article before to notice if they happen to skim it again, I’ll call it out.

To the Macalope, that’s the most sensible policy and it was rather startling to him that when Victor Keegan corrected the two mistakes in the online version of his column, the mistakes were “disappeared.” 86-ed. Flushed down the memory hole. Anyone reading the article now would never know there was were any errors. Anyone reading pissy blog posts about the errors (cough) might wonder what they were talking about.

In fairness to Keegan, it’s probably the Guardian’s policy that online content be corrected in this manner rather than his and it’s not at all unusual for the big media companies. It is a little schizophrenic, though. Print journalists have traditionally been brow-beaten over corrections, which are often used as a metric in annual reviews. But while journalists may still get dinged for them, many of the papers have thrown the transparency out the window in moving to online media. Just because you can magically correct something doesn’t mean you should.

Further, using the number of corrections as a basis for performance seems overly draconian.  It’s not that the Macalope doesn’t think sloppy reporters should be held accountable – they should. But people make mistakes and it’s likely that some reporters are going to get called on them more often than others. A simple counting system doesn’t work.

A political reporter – for example – is going to get heated calls more often than someone covering the local flower show (“Those were dahlias, god damn it! DAHLIAS!”).  Likewise complex tax regulations or the nuts and bolts of technology are going to be easier to make a mistake on than coverage of the county fair. And if readers don’t complain, reporters have zero incentive to correct a story if it’s going to pop up on their annual review.

The papers have made a decision to try to reduce the number of corrections instead of trying to increase overall accuracy.

Anyway, all of this is a long way of saying that the Macalope will be providing corrections where the errors appeared – sometimes right next to the error and sometimes at the end of a post, depending on how it affects readability and whether or not the error is isolated or throughout.

Also, on the advice of Gruber, the Macalope won’t be calling out spelling corrections anymore. There’s a fine line between diligent and being pedantic. No one cares if the Macalope has a problem with homonyms, they just care if the information is wrong or misleading.

This has been a public service announcement. We now return you to Mac news, rumors and silly pundit take-downs.

Comments
  • James Bailey:

    Here is a quick link about the nature of MP3 phones in the US. One of the funnier reviews on this topic that I’ve read:

    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/09/19b.html

    Executive Summary:

    “No no no no no. This phone is for 4 year olds, albeit spoiled 4 year olds with rich parents. They’ll love the colors, the plastic, the impossible UI, they can watch the one 1936 movie that inadvertently fell into the public domain in class when the teacher is getting boring, and they sure as heck aren’t going on a subway with that thing.”

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