You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

We stand, corrected

The Baltimore Sun

Part of my job overseeing The Sun’s news desk is to vet the corrections, to make sure that they are accurate and clear.

A reporter realizing a mistake writes a correction. A reporter or editor receives a complaint of an error from a source or a reader and writes a correction. A supervising editor has a look at it and moves it to the copy desk. I examine it and forward it to the managing editor for approval. Then we publish it.

We go to this trouble because our compact with our readers is that we provide information that is, as surely as we can establish, accurate and verified. And when we discover that we have published a factual error, we fess up to it, without hemming and hawing.

When we published once in a health advice article that you can use carbon monoxide to stop hiccups, we printed a correction the next day saying that we should have written carbon dioxide (though carbon monoxide will in fact stop hiccups, along with everything else). Our taking responsibility for our mistakes is something we do to establish our credibility with you.

There are people who will unashamedly publish unverified rumors, Photoshopped images, and outright fabrications. Some do it out of enthusiasm and carelessness, some to gain partisan political advantage, some from intent to cause harm.

That is not who we are, and not who we have been at this newspaper for the past 180 years.

We are imperfect, but we are honest.

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