Corrections guidelines for news organizations
The Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Committee has released a set of guidelines for updating and correcting information published online. Kathy English at the Toronto Star and Craig Silverman were the primary authors. I was a minor voice on the committee.
This is the first comprehensive statement on best practices that we know of. Craig Silverman in particular has argued for years that news organizations need to be more transparent about how they handle corrections.
How does a reader know if information in a story was changed? Is there a difference between reporting a typo or an error of fact? Should all stories, no matter how old — be updated? The guiding principle of the document is transparency — that we don’t simply “scrub” content and hope that no one has noticed.
These are some of the questions we tried to address. Two key recommendations are:
When we verify factual errors in digital content, we should amend the copy to make it correct. In all but the most insignificant errors, we should also append a clearly visible note to the article to tell readers that the material was changed/edited/corrected from a previously published version and provide explicit details about what was corrected. For example: An earlier version of this article misstated the overnight price of a litre of gas as $2.40.
We have the ability – and responsibility – to correct digital content as soon as we verify something is wrong and no matter how long ago it was published. There is no time limit on making things right.
The report follows a document that addressed a similar issue — “unpublishing” content.
We’re hoping this document becomes a foundation for news organizations to establish and build their own policies for how they publish, update and correct content.