“[The corrections policy] is a great device that made everybody more cognizant of the fact that we are trying to be open and transparent with our audience,” he said. “… The bottom line is I think it served us very well to date. Our people are more cognizant of trying to correct mistakes and trying to minimize mistakes, and overall the audience is better served because if you happen to see error on air or elsewhere you should be able to find [a correction] on a page on our site.”
Given the ever-growing, cross-platform nature of ESPN’s operations, it seems like a daunting task for the organization to create a viable workflow for corrections. (After all, The Washington Post was unable to effectively manage its corrections process, and it mainly has to worry abut web and print.) So what’s ESPN’s secret?
Step one was having senior people like Stiegman involved in the creation and internal promotion of the corrections process and procedures. That set the tone and told people, “This is important.”
The organization also benefits from a centralized editorial workflow that enables it to feed consistent information and reporting across multiple platforms. This ensures corrections get to the right place.
Apart from that, two senior editors are responsible for receiving and investigating any corrections requests submitted by the ESPN community. They write and publish corrections, and distribute them through the centralized news desk to make sure they end up wherever the error first appeared.
“We get a steady flow of submissions from our audience,” Stiegman said. “When we first launched with the corrections page, we got a big uptick. Probably now we get twenty-five or so submissions a week, and of those probably less than five on average are things we feel were incorrect. A lot of submissions for corrections are people who are challenging commentary.”
ESPN also uses an internal database to track of correction requests and any resulting fixes.
“I have a master database … and I have the ability to track and know exactly how many corrections are run by platform, by show, by section of the website,” he said.
Yes, it’s quite the corrections operation. I asked Stiegman if he thinks his colleagues at ABC News should follow the lead of the sports guys and get serious about corrections.
“I would tell each entity its their choice of how to handle it for their organization,” he said, not taking my bait, “but in a macro sense, I do think being more transparent is better than not.”
Correction of the Week
“Daryush Parsi’s support for women’s tennis player Aravane Rezai, whom he first saw play at the 2010 U.S. Open, is based on their shared Iranian heritage. An item in the Sept. 1 Open Racket column about fans who seek to become suitors incorrectly included Mr. Parsi, who is married, and incorrectly implied his motivation for giving the player a T-shirt.” – The Wall Street Journal