Do they regret their errors?

“Each misspelled word, bad apostrophe, garbled grammatical construction, weird cutline and mislabeled map erodes public confidence in a newspaper’s ability to get anything right” – from a 1998 study commissioned by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, via Poynter Online

Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I am aware, none of the major Trinbagonian media outlets have an explicit corrections policy.

This is unacceptable, and here I’m speaking from the dual point of view of journalist and consumer.

Our media – print, online and broadcast- are notorious for errors of fact and omission, for butchering the English language, and for the unabashed conflagration of fact and opinion.

As a recent post over at the Manicou Report noted, in connection with a Guardian story about Education Minister Esther Le Gendre:

I don’t know about you, but when I am reading a straight news piece…I would prefer that the writer told me the facts of the story and allowed me to draw my own conclusion. I would prefer if he or she didn’t colour it with his or her own impressions and I would hope that the writers think of their readers (and in some case viewers) as intelligent and that they would allow us to connect the dots ourselves. When a journalist deviates from this it affect the quality of the work and makes the reporting sound like street corner gossip.

The post inspired a range of comments from readers, and none of them were positive.

“Media today is all about sensationalism,” said MDF in response. “I dread reading the newspapers today because you see so many grammatical and spelling errors.”

And yet, none of them make any apparent effort to correct their mistakes or to apologise for their errors. Why, then, should any reader, viewer or listener trust anything that comes from the mouths and pens of local journalists?

And what of the journalists themselves? Do they regret their errors? Do they wince when they re-read their stories or watch their broadcasts and notice that they got the name or age of the accident victim wrong? Do they even notice?

I am not convinced.

Other countries in the region get this right, or at least try to. For instance, a quick Google search led to me the editorial policy page of the Jamaica Gleaner and its comprehensive editorial code of practice.

An extract:

5.1 Accuracy

The Gleaner Company’s reporters are responsible for the accuracy of their work and they should be prepared to check, re-check and collaborate with their Editors in order to achieve this.

  • The accuracy of stories should be confirmed before publication.
  • Detailed documentation should exist to support stories and the reliability of sources.
  • Rumour and unsubstantiated statements should be avoided in the interest of accuracy and fairness.
  • The correction of mistakes of fact and the clarification of errors of context must be done promptly and ungrudgingly. Fair and timely opportunity should be given to persons, companies and organizations to reply to inaccuracies. In order to maintain consistency, corrections, clarifications and apologies are carried on page 2 of the relevant publication.

I could not find anything similar (at least not online) for The Guardian, The Express, or Newsday. Alas.