A Toronto Star error reported that a business closed, when it hasn't, and correcting the record prompted a host of issues, Star public editor Kathy English explained in a recent column. The problem started, English wrote, when the Star's Aug. 15 report, Steaks: a Review,"confused and concerned" readers -- as well as the restaurants' owners - by saying Toronto Chinese restaurant House of Chan wasn't still open.
House of Chan's Penny Lyons said to English that "I was extremely shocked to read an article in the Life section of the Star saying my restaurant has closed." The article's author, restaurant critic Amy Pataki, "apologized to Lyons" according to English, who wrote Pataki said “I have no excuse for failing to check with you before publication."
But, according to English, the error the error didn't end there and
"in correcting this error, just about anything that could go wrong did. While the error was corrected immediately online upon Lyons bringing it to my attention, a correction was not published in the newspaper until Wednesday and even then it was not as fulsome as I had intended."
English explained that Lyons's request for a print correction slipped through the cracks because she was out of town, and so "I was embarrassed to realize the correction had not been published. Another mistake: this time due to inadequate communication between those in the newspaper production process." But even when English filed the print correction with a request for a "larger headline" to "draw attention," a newsroom editor "did not thoroughly read the email" and didn't make the correction as prominent as planned. English explained:
"From the initial error of not verifying information, to poor communication and follow-through, too much went wrong here. We have all learned from it. For my part, I think perhaps my usual hypervigilant, control-freak nature was still on vacation. I could have done a better job of communicating directly with the newsroom to assure the correction was published properly."
See the online August 20 correction. The article itself doesn't mention Chan's anymore, but carries a "note" that says the article originally "included House of Chan among Toronto steakhosues that have closed."
We asked English why the correction as posted on the article in question is identified as a "note." English explained to iMediaEthics that
"We generally label the corrective changes we make to online articles as Notes. The policy is to change the copy and then append a note saying what the mistake was. I think by indicating that the copy was changed because a previous version 'mistakenly' said, reader understands that it is a correction note."
English added in a follow-up email that in general, "The process decided upon here several months ago is to make the content correct and include a 'Note' at bottom to indicate to readers that it has been changed because a previous version was mistaken. We think that make sit clear that a mistake was in a previous version. There are times when the note is moved to the top and it is labeled a correction. Mainly, that is corrections done for legal reasons."
English included the Star's policy for corrections, which identifies that the newspaper's "general policy" is that
"There can be no compromise with accuracy in the Star. Accuracy is our most basic contract with readers and is the responsibility of everyone in the newsroom. Anyone who creates content for the Star, in print or online, must be vigilant about accuracy and exercise healthy skepticism. If something does not ring true, or holds potential for legal action, it must be verified."
Specifically, the policy notes that "corrections must be made in every platform in which the error was published."
We asked English if labeling corrections notes could affect the newspaper's tally for corrections. She explained that "Our tracking system captures the online notes as corrections."
We wrote earlier this month when the Star corrected a report that said teenager Errol Richards was "stabbed to death" when Richards "survived." And, the Wall Street Journal's corrections page seemed to be having a backwards day Aug. 26 as two corrections showed that the Journal flipped its facts in stories about Apple and Samsung, and an "ethanol mandate."
Update: 9/10/2012 7:41 PM EST: Added info
Update: 8/15/2012 2:41 PM EST: We uploaded the Star's policy Check it out in full.