The Ombudsmen's Approach  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   June 1998

The Ombudsmen's Approach   

Here's the corrections policy endorsed by the Organization of News Ombudsmen.

By Alicia C. Shepard
Alicia C. Shepard is a former AJR senior writer and NPR ombudsman.     

Related reading:
   » To Err Is Human, To Correct Divine

This is a corrections policy endorsed by United States members of the Organization of News Ombudsmen:

1. Be aggressive in admitting mistakes and setting the record straight. When you learn of an error of substance, publish a correction.

2. Make it easy for readers to point out potential errors in the newspaper. Establish a central phone number and designate a contact person for reporting errors. Publish the contact information every day.

3. Assign one member of the staff to follow up on reports of errors and make sure necessary corrections run in a timely fashion. This need not be a full time job, but it should be someone who can devote time to investigating errors as soon as the need arises.

4. Anchor corrections. Make it easy for readers to find them. Some newspapers run corrections in the same location, usually the second page of the front section, every day. Others choose to run corrections in the section in which the error occurred. Others run corrections on section covers, including page one.

5. Make sure news, feature, sports, entertainment and editorial operations apply similar standards of accuracy and follow the same corrections procedures. Readers notice and question different approaches.

6. Develop constructive follow-up procedures for staff members who make errors. Emphasize ongoing staff discussion of the importance of accuracy, clarify verification standards and provide training for staffers who may need it.

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