Correcting mistakes important for newspaper

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Farm Forum

The American News takes errors seriously.

By the calls and emails that come in, it’s clear readers take errors in the paper seriously, too.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been doing an internal accuracy audit to more closely identify the kinds of errors that are making it into our publications.

A three-person newsroom team is looking at a sampling of recent and not-so-recent Setting it Straight corrections and backtracking the errors to see how they happened and ways they could have been caught.

Another, much more elusive, problem are the noncorrectable errors. These are things such as confusing “there” and “their” in a story, or grammatical problems in headlines. These aren’t factual errors that change the meaning of a story, and it doesn’t make sense to run a correction. But we need to get a handle on those, too.

A new problem is crafting a digital and social media correction policy. We’ve not been consistent in the way we alert readers to errors made on AberdeenNews.com. We publish our print Setting it Straights on the website, but the stories live on with the errors.

Or the corrections are added to the stories.

Or the stories are corrected — with or without a note explaining the original errors.

Here’s an even tougher one: We recently sent out a breaking news text alert to cellphones. That text had a wrong address in it. We corrected the story online, but how do we tell those hundreds of people who received the text that there was a mistake? Surely, a second text would just be annoying.

Sometimes our sources are wrong. Those errors are important to us, too. If we publish the mistake, it is ours to own and correct.

Perfection is impossible, but we will keep working on this until we eliminate these problems and have a better framework to correct the mistakes we do make.

The rumor report

I can’t count how many conversations I have that start with the other person telling me, “There’s a rumor going around . . .”

Some rumors I have heard. Some are brand new. Some are variations on a theme (these are the ones you all know: which businesses are closing and which businesses are coming to town?).

We get calls, we get emails, we see rumors posted on Facebook and Twitter. The reporting staff checks on them to the best of our ability.

It gets tricky for us because we can’t report on rumors — even if “everybody” is talking about them. That’s why you’ll often see us do little stories or briefs that come to the rumors in a different way. On the Community Business page, for instance, Jeff Natalie-Lees will sometimes do a roundup reminder of new businesses or restaurants and their schedules. If you don’t see your favorite rumor restaurant on the list, it might be because it’s not happening or hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Keep those news tips coming. Your calls and emails give the newspaper tens of thousands of extra eyes and ears on the street.

Where @?

Most locally written American News stories now end with a postnote to point readers toward our reporters’ Twitter accounts. Many of the stories you see in the daily paper are first reported and developed on Twitter. It’s also a great place for us to meet sources, get ideas and answer questions.

Follow @jjperry_AAN on Twitter or email jperry@aberdeennews.com.