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The Star fesses up

By , January 28, 2012

Kathy English, the Star‘s public editor, dedicated her column today to addressing my complaint about headline switching on its website.

In her column, English reported that the journalist who wrote the story had misunderstood the council vote and only realized her error after the story went live on the Star‘s website. The reporter and her editor updated the online story and headline without noting the significant change in the article. I’m not sure if that’s any better than my original thought on seeing the flip-flop, which was that the Star had prepared two headlines and accompanying stories in advance and had simply posted the wrong one. Neither option is an excuse for not posting a correction on something like this.

Clarifying that the Star‘s corrections policy does apply to the web site, English wrote:

The Star’s accuracy and corrections policy applies to all content on all platforms. It says that errors, in print or online, must be corrected clearly, promptly and prominently. It also states, “Building trust in the digital world demands that the Star is seen to be transparent.”
[...]
In recent months, I’ve grown increasingly concerned about the Star’s level of transparency about online errors, having come across far too many examples of the newsroom “fixing” stories without acknowledging mistakes.

I’m quite surprised to discover that the Star‘s corrections policy holds the website to the same standard as the print edition, and can only assume that its requirements are disregarded by a significant proportion of Star writers and editors. I’ve lost count of how many silent corrections I’ve seen on the Star‘s website. I may laugh at spelling mistakes and nonsensical sentence fragments, but getting a story plain wrong and then not owning up to it is just too much.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that online media should be held to the same standard as any other media when it comes to accuracy. When an error is made, a correction should be noted and published. Both online-only publications like Slate and traditional broadsheets like the New York Times adhere to this standard for web content. Locally, Torontoist started doing it in January 2008 under then Editor-in-Chief David Topping and remains one of few, if not the only Toronto media outlet that reliably appends public corrections to articles that originally contained errors ranging from misspelled names or misstated dates all the way up to mistaken facts. It’s kind of sad that four years on, major media in this town is still catching up.

2 Responses to “The Star fesses up”

  1. Marc Lostracco says:

    And in this morning’s first incorrect Star headline: “North Korea’s Kim Jong-il gets rock star treatment during military visits.”

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