Jan 22, 2014

Setting the record straight: when a correction is too little, too late

When does media reporting cross the line into bullying? And if an online publication has made an egregious error of judgement, will an apology help, or has the damage been done?

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

Media outlets are notoriously loath to admit mistakes. Traditionally, it’s only when the lawyers start calling or regulators hand down an adverse verdict that publications fess up to getting something significant wrong. Self-reflection on systematic failures has never been a strong point for an industry immersed in the here and now.

There are notable exceptions, of course. In 2012 This American Life aired a program-length retraction detailing fabrications in an episode about Apple factories, its most most popular to date. And a year after the Iraq War began, The New York Times apologised for its reliance on dubious unnamed sources in the lead-up the war. Even then, many thought the apology too qualified and too late.

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2 thoughts on “Setting the record straight: when a correction is too little, too late

  1. Dogs breakfast

    A most thoughtful article Mr Knott.

    And as a golfer, what a strange circumstance that an article about a putter would lead, directly or indirectly, to a suicide.

    It’s a strange world we live in.

    I am always more impressed by news organisations (and people) who are happy to admit to error. They are always more interesting, and inevitably better as a result of admitting to error.

  2. Edward James

    Main stream media is no longer the gatekeeper of what gets a run. It is is coming under pressure, because of the increase in number of what Crikey once identified as public trust journalist. I believe I am a small part of the growth in a blog which may well begin to compete with now dated talk back radio stations. Because the source of news items is published by the witness and people may interact using the technology we have now. The WWW is giving us all an opportunity to experience and be directly involved in the speedy dissemination of especially local news in a way which has shrunk the so called 24 hour media cycle. When some reporter writes spin. We can and often do expose it as rubbish without waiting for the owner of a paper to ignore a complaint. Edward James

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