Matt DeRienzo, group editor of the Journal Register Company newspapers, addressed the need for prominent corrections in a Nov. 18 column about a significant error in The Register Citizen, based in Torrington, Conn.
The Register Citizen reported that the Center for Cancer Care was “leaving town” because it would be more than “35 miles” from “Yale-New Haven’s home base.” But, according to DeRienzo’s post on the error, the headline was wrong because it misinterpreted “the government’s rule that any joint cancer center that Charlotte Hungerford [Hospital, located in Torrington] and Yale-New Haven [Hospital] would operate to serve residents of the Torrington area be located ‘within 35 miles’ of Yale-New Haven’s home base.” Also, the newspaper had wrongly referred to a “‘letter of intent’ to ‘partner'” as a “merger.” The Register Citizen is a daily newspaper with a circulation of about 5,300 copies in the Northwest Connecticut region, according to Mondo Times.
DeRienzo called the error “so dumb” and noted that he made the “merger” mistake. He added that the error “exposed our failure to check that premise with the hospital, to use additional sources familiar with the law, etc.” In an email to iMediaEthics, DeRienzo explained that he “added it to the story in editing the reporter’s work” and that he is “not typically hands-on in Torrington but was there that day helping out.” The newspaper learned of its errors after a “hospital executive called me early on the morning the mistake hit the newsstands,” he added.
In response to the error, the newspaper has “run a more detailed correction on the front page, above the fold, in Wednesday’s print edition,” which DeRienzo said he “can’t remember doing” previously. DeRienzo’s column explained:
“Per our corrections policy, we didn’t just fix the article and pretend that we never made the mistake in the first place. We noted at the end of the story what we had gotten wrong and how we had updated the story to fix the problem.
“Our policy also calls for a correction to run in the print edition if the story ran in print. So we prepared a detailed correction of what we got wrong and what we should have said. It was scheduled to appear in the usual place for corrections, in a small box on the op-ed page.
DeRienzo emailed iMediaEthics after this post was originally published to let us know the correction ran last Wednesday, Nov. 14.
iMediaEthics asked DeRienzo for more information about the Journal Register corrections policy and the firstname.lastname@example.org email, where readers are invited to send any errors.
“Each paper has their own,” he said by email. “But it’s the same for all papers in Connecticut, where I am statewide editor. It’s online here,” DeRienzo wrote, pointing to the Register Citizen’s policy online. He added of the fact check email:
“This is a public statement of accountability that we’ve included at the bottom of our stories for a few years now. When a reader sends an email to that address, or fills out an online form that is built into our story pages on the web, it goes to a distribution list of editors, who make a correction if the error is obvious, or follows up themselves or has a reporter follow up if the error report requires some extra reporting or confirmation work to determine if they’re right. Here’s more on that: http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/a_fact_check_box_on_every_page.php?page=all”
DeRienzo told iMediaEthics by email that the Register Citizen does typically run all of its corrections on a separate correction page, www.registercitizen.com/correction, but that “a technical problem recently has led to it being not as updated as we intend to be (should be updated as soon as we make a correction).”
A six-paragraph Nov. 13 report, “Torrington’s South End, Litchfield possible locations for cancer center,” devotes three paragraphs to the errors.
A separate, much longer story, published the same day, which DeRienzo told iMediaEthics is the original story that ran in print and is headlined “Torrington’s Center for Cancer Care, with Yale merger, will have to relocate,” carries a correction reading:
“CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly interpreted the 35-mile range as highway distance, instead of ‘as the crow flies,’ and incorrectly speculated that it would force Charlotte Hungerford Hospital to locate the new cancer center ‘somewhere in the Thomaston area.’ [ed. note: several miles south of Torrington, and closer to New Haven]. The story also incorrectly referred to the deal as a ‘merger.’ Charlotte Hungerford and Yale-New Haven have signed a ‘letter of intent’ to form a partnership.”
DeRienzo’s column also addressed giving corrections multi-platform or prominent treatment, acknowledging that it’s “rarely followed by media organizations, including ours, I’m afraid.” He wrote:
“That’s to correct the error as prominently and through the same channels as you made the error. For example, if you post about it on Facebook, correct it on Facebook. If you send it out as a text message, correct it in a text message.”
iMediaEthics wrote earlier this year after DeRienzo blogged that the Journal Register’s Fairfield Minuteman apologized for plagiarism.
CORRECTION - November 19, 2012 09:35 PM
DeRienzo tells iMediaEthics that the correction already ran in print last week on Nov. 14. DeRienzo’s Nov. 18 article said the newspaper “made the decision to run a more detailed correction on the front page, above the fold, in Wednesday’s print edition.” iMediaEthics took this to mean the correction was still to come in print. We’ve fixed the headline and explained in text as well.