Monday, December 3, 2007

98% newspaper mistakes go uncorrected

Almost half of the articles published by daily newspapers in the US contain one or more factual errors, and less than two percent end up being corrected, reports a study. It’s time to increase both the size of correction boxes and reporting accuracy.

The study, achieved by Scott R Maier, an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, spanned across 10 newspapers and found that 98% of the 1,220 factual errors went uncorrected.

Whereas editors and journalists tend to believe the correction boxes cover most of the factual errors, these overwhelmingly go uncorrected, even when pointed out by news sources.

“This study, however, shows that even when errors were reported by news sources, the vast majority – 98 per cent – remained uncorrected,” comments Newswatch.

Why do these mistakes go untouched? Is it newspapers that refrain from publicizing all their errors, or are some ‘factual’ errors reported by sources contested by journalists?

On a more positive note, Maier found it positive that most newspapers regularly invite readers to correct mistakes, and usually have prominent correction box. The New York Times publishes daily a toll-free number and email address for readers to submit their corrections.

Some examples were less comforting: the Miami Herald fails to routinely publish a corrections policy, the Grand Fork Herald buries its corrections next to the obituaries. Another paper didn’t include the correction box in the online version of a story.

More frightening is the generally large amount of errors found in newspaper stories on average. Following a statistical logic, papers would have to increase fifty-fold the space allotted to corrections. Or journalists can start triple-checking all their facts.

Top 10 Reasons That Being a Copy Editor is So Cool

10. It's like solving a puzzle.

9. You find a whole world of other people who go crazy over the "10 items or less" sign in the grocery store. (Or, as one new editor put it, "I can constructively satisfy my obsessive-compulsive anal-retentive tendencies and get paid for it.")

8. Your job changes constantly; you are never bored.

7. You become a more interesting person. You can talk about Arafat, Agassi, Albright, and Aguilera and sound like you know what you're talking about -- because you do.

6. You have responsibility and power. You decide how the reader will perceive the news - how they'll perceive the world.

5. Catching a dumb mistake before readers see it is a rush. Helping someone make a story better is the best drug there is.

4. Newspapers never ask writers to edit, but they love it when editors write.

3. You could be the world's best quiz show contestant, because you're a dictionary of useless information.

2. You can move anywhere you want and find a job.

1. You never have to dress nice.

An editor's nightmare-the email grammar stickler

USA Today columnist Craig Wilson writes about the emails and letters he receives daily regarding grammar errors. He adds humor to the subject by speaking about one woman in particular who seems obsessed with finding and calling out these errors. Here is just a small section from the article.

From the article...

I had a reader who was on such a roll this month, e-mailing me her list of grammar complaints. These weren't so much violations made by me, just what irritates her most.

She began with her husband. His favorite word is "irregardless." She says she has told him repeatedly it is not a word, but he pays her no mind.

He told her it was in the dictionary — it is — and to leave him alone. What she can't convince him of is that the dictionary's definition of irregardless is "regardless."

She then moved on to the misuse of contractions.

What sent her right around the bend recently was a shirt Paris Hilton was wearing to some function that people such as Paris Hilton attend. It read "Thats hot" on the front and "Your not" on the back.

Somewhere Webster is spinning in his grave, she wrote. I suspect she might be right, although Webster never struck me as a spinner type.

What really impressed me, though, was her confession that she sits in church and picks out the mistakes in the Sunday bulletin. She knows this is bad. She told me so.

I replied that I doubted the good Lord would strike her down for editing in church, just as long as she still listened to the sermon.

Good News for Print Journalism

Good news for my fellow print journalists! According to one journalism savvy blogger, print journalists have nothing to worry about. He feels that while newspapers and other publications may be struggling right now there will still be a need for them in the future.

Outrageous news clips- Suggestive and so embarassing!

I had to share this video! Clips from various newscasts are put together to show how the inappropriate use of certain words can change the whole meaning of what you are trying to say!

NPR Journalists Are Targeted in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

After the Hurricane Katrina devastation, many people felt that journalists (like those at NPR) were doing too much criticizing and not enough helping. This is just part of the article in which NPR editor Ellen Weiss speaks out on the subject.

'Don't Stop Being Human'

Ellen Weiss is the senior national editor for NPR News. She oversees the complex editorial and logistical requirements for reporters and producers sent to the stricken areas.

I think for the most part NPR reporters understand that they are in the field to tell the story -- not get involved. They are also often in the same position as the people they are covering -- in danger, or without shelter, food or water. At the same time, you just don't stop being… human. I remember [NPR's] Mike Shuster on his "silk road" series -- talking about picking up an injured Afghan boy and giving him a ride to the hospital or to safety miles away -- I know our reporters in New Orleans gave people rides elsewhere -- gave whatever water they could spare to people they met -- but they understand that they can't jeopardize their own health and safety. An interesting example is what happened to Sarah Chayes -- she was a freelancer for us in Europe and then Afghanistan -- and she did become so involved there that she simply left journalism and went into aid work.

Someone was asleep at the switch if they didn't notice something wrong with this newscast!

Thousands of viewers had to take a second look during this newscast. A reporter describing the suspect of a recent rape has a police sketch behind him that bares and uncanny resemblance to himself. How embarrassing!

The debate continues : Is there a future in journalism?

It seems that every person related to the journalism field in some way has an opinion about what the future will hold for the industry. Writer Hans Durrer holds a more positive attitude on the subject than most.

"Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn't seen in years," and other 'what were they thinking' headlines!

  • Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
  • Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing
  • Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
  • House passes gas tax onto senate
  • Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan
  • Two convicts evade noose, jury hung
  • William Kelly was fed secretary
  • Milk drinkers are turning to powder
  • Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
  • Quarter of a million Chinese live on water
  • Farmer bill dies in house
  • Iraqi head seeks arms
  • Queen Mary having bottom scraped
  • Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?
  • Prostitutes appeal to Pope
  • Panda mating fails - veterinarian takes over
  • NJ judge to rule on nude beach
  • Child's stool great for use in garden
  • Dr. Ruth to talk about sex with newspaper editors
  • Soviet virgin lands short of goal again
  • Organ festival ends in smashing climax
  • Eye drops off shelf
  • Squad helps dog bite victim
  • Dealers will hear car talk at noon
  • Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
  • Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests
  • Miners refuse to work after death
  • Two Soviet ships collide - one dies
  • Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter
  • Never withhold herpes from loved one
  • Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
  • Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984
  • Autos killing 110 a day, let's resolve to do better
  • if strike isn't settled quickly it may last a while
  • War dims hope for peace
  • Smokers are productive, but death cuts efficiency
  • Cold wave linked to temperatures
  • Child's death ruins couple's holiday
  • Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn't seen in years
  • Man is fatally slain
  • Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say
  • Death causes loneliness, feeling of isolation

Copy editing isn't rocket science, it's worse!

This blog is pretty funny. Blogger Kat Richardson talks about the need for copy editing in the world of writing and the nit picking precision that comes along with it!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Casual language/multimedia knowledge

Since this is my last post, I thought I'd do a little combining of subjects. First up, the issue of casual language or slang in headlines has always bothered me. Mostly because I feel like it's frowned upon unless you're in the confines of an art hed or elaborate pun. A few hours ago at work, I wanted to write "digs" in reference to a school's new building -- as in "Elementary school gets 'green' digs." (Green as in energy-efficient.) But I figured that wouldn't really fly in a normal news story. I could be wrong, but kind of don't think I am. I wonder if use of slang is frowned upon because the older crowd is who actually reads the newspaper, or publications think it's an easy way to maintain credibility, but either way, it stinks. I feel like if it's a common expression/word that basically everyone would know, why can't we use it? Everyone knows what "digs" in that context would mean, right? I think if the copy editors banded together and decided to quit being so stuffy, we could actually draw in a younger audience so badly needed with headlines that have more conversational, entertaining language.

The second thing I wanted to touch on was something I saw (once again) on Romenesko, which said something about how newspapers want to hire people who have multimedia knowledge. This scared me a little, because though I like to think I know a good amount about computers, generally, technology and I don't get along too well. Thank god for this class, that we have learned Soundslides and other programs, but apparently the more experiences you have the better. I kind of like staying in my print-knowledge comfort zone (aka basically no multimedia needed), but I know I need to push out of that to keep up with the times. I guess if we walk into a job without having a multifaceted multimedia background, we're going to be in trouble. Enter my next semester god save: the J-school's online media class.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The future is us

I like Tim McGuire's blog. It's just fun and interesting.

His most recent piece argues the merits of citizen journalism vs. mainstream media. Many people apparently view mainstream media as "sold out" and "lacking credibility" -- on the other hand, citizen journalism has been criticized for having no ethics and no guardianship.

I won't repeat the entire piece here (I recommend you read it, though -- it's cool; click on the headline above). For what it's worth, I think I tend to side more with the "mainstream media" point of view on this matter, mainly because of the ethical issue: citizen journalists do not have to adhere to the same code of ethics as do professional journalists.

On the other hand, I think it's important not to eliminate citizen journalism completely, simply because they have information and a point of view that may not be available from any other source. Citizen journalists can be a terrific source for professional journalists...who also might be able to bring to a story deeper, more thorough and investigative aspects that citizen journalists simply don't have the expertise for.

What do you guys think? : )

When is plagiarism not plagiarism?

According to this story, a University of Missouri journalism professor resigned after he admitted that he plagiarized material from a student writer. It's a rather convoluted tale (you can access it by clicking on the headline), but apparently the only thing he "lifted" were quotes. Poynter author Roy Peter Clark seems to take the tack that it really wasn't plagiarism at all, but rather sloppy attribution.

Doesn't this beg the argument that a quote is a quote is a quote? Once the quote is out there, do we really have to say where it came from? I think we do, simply because such information is relevant to whatever we're reading. I do agree with Clark, however, that the "scarlet letter" of plagiarism can easily lead to witch hunts, inducing competent and learned journalists to quit the business at the first blush of scandal.

I'm not arguing in favor of Jayson Blair...but I think that genuine, time-tested and battle-scarred journalists are precisely the men and women we need in the field. It's probably safe to say that the UM professor won't make that mistake again. Would it be better for his students to leave him where he is, sadder but wiser? Or, on the other hand, is that endorsing the very behavior we expel students for?

I'm not drawing conclusions here. I just wanted to air both sides of the tale -- and let you draw your own conclusion.

Online editing

It seems like in the drive to get news online faster, copy editing has gone out the door. I can't count the number of times I have gone on the East Valley Tribune's and Arizona Republic's Web sites and seen clear libel or numerous mistakes that copy editors would have fixed if they had read the stories before they were published on the Web. In newspapers' effort to be first, they have sidestepped the important role that copy editors play in keeping stories accurate, complete and clear. I've seen so many instances where someone has been "arrested for" a crime, which is clearly libelous. Newspapers need to come up with a system where stories filter through the copy desk before they are put online; and I know the Tribune is moving toward that goal and the Republic does have people around the clock putting stories online. Just because the story isn't in print, doesn't mean the newspaper has any less accountability for making that piece accurate and clear. Though copy editors traditionally work at night, perhaps even one person working a graveyard shift can curb many of the mistakes that make their way into stories put directly online. Web publication can be even more problematic in that those stories never go away. Any time someone searches for or comes across an online story, the mistakes will still be there, and that's a huge problem for newspapers.