By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Globe, Times need to correct online corrections

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 9.47.00 AMThe Boston Globe published two corrections today. No big deal. It’s one of the ways that responsible news organizations hold themselves accountable.

But unless you read the print edition, you didn’t see the corrections — not even in the “Today’s Paper” view, which is supposed to include every item published in that day’s Globe. (Of course, corrections do appear in the ePaper, which is how I grabbed the image accompanying this post. But that’s just a PDF of the print edition.)

As someone who reads the Globe and The New York Times every day, I find myself scratching my head at how poorly the two papers handle corrections online. The Globe is worse, but the Times needs to improve, too.

The Times, at least, runs all corrections on its website and in the “Today’s Paper” section of its iPad-only HTML5 app. But they are missing from the iOS apps for the iPhone and the iPad, which are used by many of their customers. They’re also missing from Times Skimmer, an alternative desktop view based on the same feeds as the iOS apps. (I’m guessing the situation is the same with the Times’ Android apps.)

Unlike the Times, the Globe doesn’t run a separate section of online corrections anywhere — not on its website and not on its recently released iPhone app. When I posted a question on Twitter yesterday, Globe tech guy Damon Kiesow directed me to this. But it hasn’t been updated since April 4. In a follow-up, Kiesow indicated it would be fixed at some point.

I should note that both the Times and the Globe append corrections to online stories as necessary. That’s essential for archival purposes. But it doesn’t help if you read a story just once, on the day it’s published.

In any event, it’s long past time for both papers — and all papers — to take corrections as seriously in the digital space as they do in print.

More: Not long after this item was posted, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan tweeted:

Also, in the comments I’ve posted an email from Globe spokeswoman Ellen Clegg, who says my post “mischaracterizes” the Globe’s correction policy. I don’t think that’s the case, but I’m happy to offer a different perspective.

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  1. Dan Kennedy

    The following comment is from Ellen Clegg, the Globe’s executive director of communications. — DK

    Your post today mischaracterizes our correction policy, which is tailored specifically to an online audience.

    For online corrections, we fix the online version of the story, and then add the correction text at the end to explain the initial error, and tell readers why the story was amended. Here are some examples:

    This has been our standard policy for years.

    We do this because, unlike in print, stories on the web live forever. It is imperative that we make the correction to the story itself — and clearly acknowledge why — so that readers get the accurate version of events. It’s a policy tailored to the habits of our online audience, and one designed to ensure the Globe’s website is always up-to-date with the most correct information.

    This policy also ensures that we don’t have to wait for a print correction to run, and allows us to correct a story online as quickly as possible. As you know, a reporter or editor usually discovers the need for a correction within a few hours of a story running. With this online correction policy, we ensure that the story gets updated for readers in the timeliest fashion.

    We’ve also been exploring a way to pull in all the print versions of corrections into one page on The page you link to in that blog post is an early version, but it is not yet ready for wide distribution (which is why you’ll note it isn’t linked from anywhere on the site).

  2. Mike Benedict

    If I’m reading this right, and I think I am, what Clegg is saying is that the Globe corrects the story, and therefore doesn’t see the need to otherwise call attention to its own mistakes. But the question is, How many readers go back to reread a story? Offering a list of all its goofs (no matter whose at fault) in one place makes it much easier for a reader.

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