Correction or clarification? The UK Guardian readers’ editor Paul Chadwick explained in a recent column how the newspaper decides what types of errors or story issues get what sort of response.
The readers’ editor office handles many corrections for the Guardian, but “the editorial teams often handle matters themselves and footnote,” the office told iMediaEthics by e-mail.
Chadwick offered guidelines for when to publish a formal correction or clarification.
- “seriousness of any potential harm;
- “consequences if item misunderstood;
- “urgency/timeliness/elapse of time since publication;
- “prominence of item when first published;
- “legal considerations;
- “degree of reputational risk to the Guardian if item not corrected or clarified.”
The Guardian‘s guidelines require a correction for “significant errors,” but Chadwick reported the newspaper gets about “30,000 contacts” from readers each year and not all of them require a formal correction.
The Guardian has published a corrections and clarifications column six days a week for twenty years, he noted, and in the past year, there have been about 3,500 print and online corrections and clarifications. iMediaEthics asked if there is a distinction for what is labeled a clarification versus a correction, but the readers’ editor office told iMediaEthics, “judgments are made in the circumstances of each case.”
Smaller errors get online footnotes and are corrected in text. “Many matters that come to the attention of a readers’ editor’s office are minor,” he wrote. “For example, they may be spelling or grammatical errors, matters of degree or timing, literals or inconsequential ambiguities. Most do not stem from serious failings.”
“Typos are usually not footnoted where the meaning does not change and there is otherwise no significance to the change,” the office explained to iMediaEthics.
Earlier this month, ABC News was under fire after erring in an anonymously sourced report about Pres. Donald Trump and Gen. Michael Flynn. At first, ABC News labeled its amended report a clarification, further drawing criticism.