Thursday, April 28, 2005

Corrections? You're fired!

The readers representative at the Minnesota Daily, Libby George, writes about flaws in opinion writing.

Here's an interesting part (and just try to read over the errors):
The same trap has ensnared other Daily writers, as have other opinion-writing blunders such as making sweeping generalizations, drawing conclusions based on assumptions, not facts, and ignoring significant gaps in the argument the columnist is trying to make. While these are all different scenarios, they can all lead to misleading and inaccurate writing. That's where Editorials & Opinions Editor Tim Burnett should come in -- but apparently not in Noyes' case.

"For an editorial writer with 3 1/2 of experience (like Noyes) I usually don't worry about accuracy," Burnett said. "There's a lower standard. I check for taste, not for facts."

With newer columnists and guest columnists, Burnett said, he does "basic fact-checking" based on what he knows about the issue (a prerequisite for his job is to avidly follow the news). While he is devoted to catching unsubstantiated or misleading statements, he said, he doesn't have time to be "perfectly thorough." All columns also go through editing by copy desk, but opinions pieces are trickier for copy editors, because it is hard to know whether a writer has facts to back up the argument. That's why Burnett's role is so crucial.
Because they've had problems with bad facts making it into the paper, a new policy has been put in place.
[Editor in chief Jake] Weyer recently changed the Daily's corrections policy so that any writer with two corrections in the same semester will be officially written up and any error after that could warrant termination.
There's no word on whether that would hold for nonwriters; I've sent a note to George; I'll update if I hear back from her.


At 10:08 PM, April 28, 2005, Anonymous doris said...

Well, there are j-schools (which shall go unnamed) in which scoring a correction for any reason means an automatic reduction of a letter grade in the class.

At 2:28 AM, April 29, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

For the whole class, not just the assignment? Wow.

I'm just thinking back to all the corrections I've read, musing about the reporters who would have been fired now under the three-a-year rule.

And what corrections count? Will this impede the reporting of errors internally? (You'd have to imagine so.)

At 6:41 PM, May 01, 2005, Blogger Niko Dugan said...

Something tells me I know exactly which J-school doris is talking about, and the rule is true for the whole class.

In addition, any correction had to be cut out of the next day's paper and pasted on the front page of the reporter's portfolio.


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