The group quickly realized Shafer was right. At this point, I’ll disclose that Shafer and I spoke earlier this month in order to discuss Slate’s corrections policy and the issue of the window. I have no idea if this was before or after he made his suggestion to the group, but I can say that he and I are in agreement: the window needed to be closed.
Plotz said it’s been shut, with one small exception: the site’ aggregation feature, The Slatest, is still making fixes without correction if the errors are spotted within sixty minutes of publication. Plotz said this is because of the way the content is produced, and that the window will close when The Slatest undergoes some changes, which should be soon.
“The experience with Politico made us realize we can’t be critical of others for this if we are not living up to similar standard ourselves,” he said. “We basically voided that clause with one tiny exception. Now there is no longer any window for factual errors. They are corrected—it doesn’t matter when they’re caught, how they’re caught, who catches them. We’ll see, maybe there will be a huge surge in corrections with Slate. And maybe not.”
Now Slate is once again a site I’ll cite as a good example of how to handle corrections; more important, the lesson for all news organizations is that you’re never really finished with corrections. Policies and procedures need to be reexamined annually, or any time a new situation or issue arises. It’s surprisingly easy to suddenly find yourself behind the curve.
“I think we felt like we have a policy, we have a corrections czar, we know what we’re doing, and it’s all pretty transparent and therefore we’re in a different category,” Plotz said. “But in fact were making these same after-the-fact changes [as Politico] that were invisible to readers, which were effectively corrections.”
Perhaps the final lesson is that corrections hubris is a dangerous thing — and almost always ends in comeuppance.
Correction of the Week
An article on Wednesday about the quarrels among President Obama’s national security advisers described in a new book by Bob Woodward referred incompletely to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s reported assessment of Richard C. Holbrooke, the president’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. While Mr. Biden is indeed quoted as calling Mr. Holbrooke “the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met,” he also is quoted saying that Mr. Holbrooke “may be the right guy for the job.” – The New York Times