Everyone makes mistakes from time to time when publishing the latest blog post or news article, and sometimes errors are caught right away and changes can be made immediately. Other times, an error isn't caught until a few hours, or even a few days (if at all), which is not only short-sighted in publishing but could push away readers and sources who see these errors or errors about them. What you should do to ensure errors don't happen, and what should you do when an error is caught or reported? Answering that questions involves creating a corrections policy for your blog or online publication.
What's a Corrections Policy?
A corrections policy is simply your blog or online publication's protocol when misinformation was published. Hopefully, it is in your interest to correct these mistakes and to do whatever it takes to prevent these mistakes from happening in the first place. Below is a good example of a corrections policy, this one from the Roanoke Times:
We correct all mistakes. Whenever a possible error is called to our attention, a staff member should handle the matter in as courteous a manner as possible and immediately inform an editor. When we learn about an error, we will publish a correction or clarification online and in print that is clear and concise as soon as possible.
The newspaper as a whole accepts responsibility for routine errors of our making, and we do not identify the internal source. Example: Institutional correction: "Bradley Gusler's name was misspelled in a story in Sunday's Business section." When we publish erroneous information provided by others, we will indicate that, as long as the error is not something we could and should have verified. For instance, if we are given an incorrect telephone number and publish it, we should assume institutional responsibility for the error, because it's easy to call and check a number. But if we are dependent on a single state trooper for details of an accident, we would attribute any incorrect information to him or her.
You might not need one that detailed, but at the very least a corrections policy should exist and be listed on your website and that you should issue a correction when one needs to happen. Assuming that you get things right all the time, or that you don't have to let your audience know when you make a mistake is not a best practice.
What Else Should Come with Your Corrections Policy?
Listing your corrections policy and following it is enough for any blog or online publication, but there are a few ways you can go above and beyond to make your corrections policy more prominent and easier to follow. Here are a few suggestions to do that:
- Provide a Specific Contact for Corrections - Sometimes, readers will find a mistake and will want a correction issued. To make easier for them to reach somebody and to ensure that the correction is noted, provide an email address, a phone number, and/or a contact form that they can use to let you know about the mistake. Yes, readers can simply use the comments section, but comments could get lost or could be taken lightly. You should make an effort to review and to respond to every entry.
- Issue the Correction - Instead of just correcting the original article and updating it, try and to issue an actual correction statement, noting what was incorrect and what was actually correct. This statement can appear at the end of the post or could appear as its own article. Either way, this makes your corrections transparent, showing your readers that you're taking accuracy seriously and aren't afraid to admit that you've made a mistake.
- Make Corrections a Priority - All corrections should be made urgently and treated as urgent, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. For example, a misquote doesn't necessarily change the story, but the person who was misquoted won't like it and might now work with your publication if the future if you take too long to fix the error. It shows that you weren't paying attention the first time when getting the quote, and that you aren't paying attention now to fix the error in a timely manner.