Why are errors in online articles not corrected?

The Toronto Star’s public editor talks to Regret the Error‘s Craig Silverman about his new book (via J-Source).

The article talks about the reluctance of journalists to admit their own mistakes. It’s something you find in all professions, but journalists have a special duty to get their facts right. In fact, it’s the only thing they have to do.

Naturally, the article talks about how great the Star is at their corrections (few Canadian publications have corrections pages) and how they want to get better.

One suggestion, that Silverman has I think given up making because few bother with it, is to actually correct articles online when you issue corrections about them.

As a random example, this article about Ontario’s civil courts makes a simple error, saying that someone is currently in a position when she’s not. The correction is online and everything, but the original error is still there (about halfway down the article), and no mention is made of a correction.

For a more serious example, this correction notes that the Star violated a publication ban by revealing the names of victims in an inquiry. Unfortunately, at least one of the original articles, which has the full names of six children in it, is still online. (I won’t link to it because I don’t want to violate the publication ban myself, but it’s Googlable.)

In case the nature of the problem isn’t blatantly obvious by now, the original articles are emailed, del.icio.used, Dugg and otherwise passed around, and people can read them days after the fact, learning the false information with no clue that a correction has already been issued.

Newspapers, radio stations and TV networks can’t go back in time and unpublish something, but website articles can and must be altered to correct inaccuracies, preferably with a note describing the nature of the error and how it was corrected.

Why is that so hard to understand?

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