The Grantland article that made it to the main ESPN online corrections page is this Bill Simmons piece about the Boston Bruins. Errors were fixed in the text and a correction was added to the foot of the column, along with a footnote that acknowledges one of the errors.
Then there’s this Grantland piece by Chuck Klosterman. He mistakenly wrote that tennis player Monica Seles was stabbed at the French Open. (She was stabbed in Germany.) Rather than adding a correction at the bottom, or scrubbing the error, someone decided to use the correction popular on blogs and
strikethrough the incorrect information.
The third option that seems to exist on Grantland is what happened with the Jones piece: mistakes are fixed and no one adds a correction or a strikethrough. This range of correction practices is confusing and inconsistent.
Here’s the Simmons correction:
A June 16 ESPN Grantland story about the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup incorrectly the number of games played in the 1974 Cup finals (there were six) and the year Ray Bourque won a Stanley Cup (it was in 2001).
Those mistakes seem to fall under the category that Stiegman said could include “statistical changes, misspellings, or dates/details that do [not] materially change the storyline.” ESPN’s policy is that they don’t require a correction; scrubbing is fine. Yet a correction was made for Simmons.
If you compare his mistakes to the one made by Jones in the lead of his column, I think there’s a strong argument to be made that Jones’s date error had a more significant impact on the content of his piece. Remember that the first four words of the column are, “Without looking it up ”
The entire lead is built on the notion that the correct date is burned into Jones’ psyche. But that wasn’t the case.
So why no correction?
Scocca said the correction issue is a symptom of the larger arms-length approach to Grantland. (“We’re definitely not holding Deadspin up as a flawless performer, but we strive to own the errors we make,” he told me. For a recent example, look at this correction to a notable Deadspin post about the NBA.)
“Part of the inspiration behind the whole [Grantland correction column] is that Grantland has this extremely non-interactive set up now,” Scocca said. “I think the plan is to eventually have comments but right now Grantland is handing out tablets from the mountain.”
The lesson here, aside from the fact that readers notice errors and expect corrections, is that your community will go elsewhere to engage if you don’t provide a mechanism for them to speak up and share feedback. You can’t stop them. And they could very well grow to resent you for shutting them out.
“[Grantland is] caught in a little bit of a feedback loop,” Scocca said. “Because of the scrubbing their readers think that Grantland thinks it can pass itself off as perfect. The more unacknowledged corrections, the more irritating each new error gets.”
The result for Grantland is some people are using Deadspin as a place to e-mail the errors they spot on Grantland. Others have taken to Twitter to tweet errors, questions, and feedback at the (not surprisingly) broadcast-only Grantland Twitter account. It has over 60,000 followers and follows one person. I scrolled through a long series of its recent tweets and the only people it retweeted were Simmons and a writer for Grantland who tweeted about a story he is writing for Grantland.
Maybe Scocca has a point about the feedback loop .
There is, however, one Grantland contributor who has shown a willingness to engage with the people who read his stuff. To acknowledge his errors and offer some explanation. That would be our hero of the mistaken cherry pop, Chris Jones.
He recently engaged with a Twitter user who suggested Jones made a typo in a piece on Grantland. Jones didn’t make a typo, but he did reply and explain.