20/20 #19 — Afterwords: Corrections, complaints, comments


Everybody makes mistakes, and prompt correction of errors is crucial. Ways of making corrections vary:

1) Correction without acknowledgement: This is done by making changes within the article, or by simply taking the article off-line.  This can leave the reader without any information that a correction has been made.

2) Correction within an on-line article –

The governor gave his state of the state address to an audience of seven two hundred.


The governor gave his state of the state address to an audience of two hundred. [Number in audience corrected: 1/30/08]

3) Correction by notices published after the error is discovered. These notices can run on the front page, or on an inside page in a print publication or on the same page as the article or on the front page in an on-line publication. They can include the original, erroneous text and the correction, or just the correction (in which case, the reader is often left wondering what the article was about and what the error was in the first place.)

Example: Correction to “St. Paul University Avenue businesses discuss parking cuts”

2/14/09: The article originally characterized U-Plan as an advocate for small businesses. Per U-Plan director Adam Maleitzke: “We provide architectural renderings, GIS mapping and research so our clients can be their own advocates.”


At their best, complaints can be useful in surfacing overlooked points of view. They can generate new story ideas or spark the beginning of dialogue. That’s the best-case scenario, and the reason to pay careful attention to complaints and to try to figure out whether and how to respond.

Another variety of complaint comes from people who want to intimidate reporters or editors into giving them favorable coverage or none at all. Media’s job is not to make people happy. We do not need to be attack dogs but we also do not need to back off from legitimate criticism because of complaints.

At the other end of the spectrum, complaints can be vitriolic and sometimes personal attacks. The best response to this sort of complaint is often no response.


“Stick your political correctness up your ass.” So begins one of the comments the TC Daily Planet received (and posted.)

We post almost every legit comment that we receive. By “legit,” I mean comments that are not spam or advertising/self promotion. The very few that we refuse to post are overtly racist, probably libelous, or personal attacks of the “I know him personally and he is a crook/liar/shoplifter/child abuser” variety. We do not fact-check comments, but we will refuse to post a comment that is obviously and egregiously misstating facts.


1) What kind of correction – or what combination of kinds of correction – do you think works best?

2) Troy Wodele had a critique of comment sections:

Troy Wodele, 5/20/08 • I have a very difficult time reading news on both the Star and Tribune and the Pioneer Press’ websites, primarily because of the comments sections at the end of the article. Invariably, I find myself reading them, despite the fact that most of the rants are racist, sexist, and ill informed. I’m not sure why the two papers put up with this type of discourse. They are not required to post every response, so why do they?

In addition, as an educator, I am also appalled at the grammar and spelling that is displayed in many of these comments.

What is your reaction?

©2008-2009 Mary Turck