One of the first places I turn to in the paper is the corrections. I turn slowly, bracing myself for what I’ll find. I remember this correction to a Washington Post story about Americans fleeing Lebanon last summer:
“Earlier versions of this story contained an incorrect telephone number. The correct number for Americans in the United States seeking information about the evacuation is 888-407-4747. Americans outside the country may call 202-501-4444.”
What was the big deal? It turned out the first number was for a sex-talk service.
Few things in print provide such a reliable supply of cringes and chuckles as the typos, misidentifications, wrong dates, and other inaccuracies found on page 2.
In 2005, Craig Silverman—a freelance writer for the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, and Canadian publications—created Regret the Error, a blog tracking newspaper and magazine “corrections, retractions, clarifications and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in the media.”
Besides a daily rundown of noteworthy corrections, the site provides links to the corrections pages of more than 80 newspapers, magazines, broadcast news sources, and online publications. Silverman bemoans major American media outlets such as USA Today, CNN, and Fox News that have no online corrections page.
Especially popular are his yearly “Plagiarism Round-Up” and “The Year in Media Errors and Corrections.” In the former, Baltimore columnist Michael Olesker—who most recently wrote for the Baltimore Sun and has since resigned—was listed for his serial plagiarism discovered last year.
This fall, Silverman will turn much of the content of his blog into a book—Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute and Endanger the Press, an Eats, Shoots, and Leaves for the media-centric. Jeff Jarvis of the blog BuzzMachine will write the foreword.
Part history, part laundry list, part analysis, Silverman’s book will, according to publisher Union Square Press, “examine why today’s media climate makes it imperative that the press meet higher standards of accuracy.”
Silverman adds that the book will look at “the death of newspaper proofreaders” and “the emergence and decline of magazine fact checking.”
There’s much debate about whether blogging is journalism, but it’s unquestionable that bloggers have had an impact on the profession. In bloggers, journalists—long thought of as the watchdogs of public officials—have their own watchdogs. Loud is the bark, and at times aggravating, but it’s not without cause.