There has been a lot of discussion lately as to what the standard should be for corrections in the digital realm of journalism. As a writer I feel that this is a very important topic because it symbolizes a turning point in digital communications. Writers are humans and humans make errors. That is a fact of life and whether it is in print or digital the consensus is that there needs to be a consistent set of guidelines for the proper way to correct errors. Alicia Shepard’s “Corrections: Basic Journalistic Hygiene”http://n.pr/fXGChh is the only one, out of several articles I came across, that focuses on guidelines for blog corrections. She references Craig Silverman of Report the Error and Scott Rosenberg of MediaBugs who started the Report an Error Alliance. Their initiative is to get news organizations to post MediaBugs’ free Report an Error widget at the top of all of their articles, allowing readers to send in corrections. An author-generated corrections mechanism she suggests is to place a corrections box at the top of the page for errors that require an explanation. Other authors are more concerned about Twitter, especially considering its fast spread of information and especially in the case of its misreporting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ death. Basically Twitter is like a big game of Telephone. The message starts out one way and, by the time it gets passed down the line of people, becomes something completely different. Twitter messages can start out with ambiguous and incorrect reports generated from the source as news breaks or can also emerge through a compilation of user reports that spread through retweets. Either way, incorrect information is spread. Craig Silverman’s “What Would a Twitter Correction Function Look Like?” http://bit.ly/hiQb7N suggests that a Twitter corrections function be user controlled (only to be policed by Twitter in cases of abuse) and provide a way to retweet a correction to all users who retweet the incorrect tweet.
His method involves automatic @replies to everyone who retweeted the initial retweet to let them know of the correction and urge them to retweet it. In order to make it stand out, a special distinguished correction icon would accompany it. He also suggests that when Twitter establishes its annotations function it could enable a correction attribute to be put into practice. Others seem to agree, Mathew Ingram’s “Twitter is a Great Tool. What Happens When It’s Wrong” http://bit.ly/gq27ep and Scott Rosenberg’s “Correct, Don’t Delete, That Erroneous Tweet” agree that a corrections function that notifies retweeters of the incorrect information and simultaneously provides them with a correction to retweet is perhaps the best way to rectify the situation. The latter’s article also voices the opinion that the incorrect tweet not be deleted, but simply amended. A lot of the other authors seem to be in agreement, although there are concerns about the subjective nature of some corrections, who should handle them, and the implications of deleting an incorrect tweet. My thoughts lean towards the tweet of a correction to all who retweeted the incorrect information while not deleting the original tweet. That sums up blogs and Twitter. However, what about Facebook? It may not be as much of a news transmitter as the other two but I think it warrants the same consideration for a corrections feature. People share things on Facebook and a lot of Twitter users tie in their accounts to Facebook. Incorrect status updates should have a corrections standard too. In the case of Facebook it would have to involve a button similar to the “like” button that immediately lets others know about the change in their news feeds. The key to the importance of this is transparency. If newspapers are expected to report corrections then that same consideration must extend to digital communications on any platform. Transparency is essential, it leads to good credibility and good credibility leads to more trust, which is exactly what the news industry needs to preserve to survive the changes occurring within its midst. A digital presence is a reflection of one’s visible and personal presence, and that makes this an issue of utmost importance going forward.
Within this new digital and technological age there is always something new and upcoming that competes with, and some may even argue eclipses and renders obsolete, older models and technology. The Kindle emerged as a new form of the book, the cd emerged as the new form of the tape, etc. However, most of these newer models never completely replace their predecessors. There are always going to be people out there who crave the original. Case in point, a teenager the other day told me that he owns records and that records are making a comeback. In other words, these newer models simply fill niches within the scope of what can be created. They continue to exist alongside their predecessors. Similar to this is the case of ”The Yahoo Style Guide,” as written about in the article prompting this post titled “The Write Stuff” written by Bill Grueskin on the Columbia Journalism Review website http://bit.ly/bVveei.
This style guide is written for the digital age and is attempting to position itself as a comprehensive style guide, although it is geared more towards online publishing. It incorporates elements of the AP Stylebook (in the sense of capitals, etc.), but is mainly focused on educating those publishing online content about how to win over the online reader. Short, simple and consistent is touted over long, complex and laxity. A chart is included to show how online readers’ eyes track across the page and size up elements that lead them to decide whether to click or leave. Tips for how to identify your audience, develop a consistent voice, and drive traffic to your site are also included in this 500 page guide. While it fills in a gap that the AP Stylebook does not cover, its shortcomings render it a counterpart and not a replacement. For example it barely covers legal and ethical issues, which are the most important things to consider. Another downfall the author points out is that it is geared more toward marketing than journalism. However, in an age where more online publishing is occurring I think this is a moot point. Journalists can benefit from search engine optimization just as much as marketers. Basically, it attempts to be comprehensive but does not quite achieve that status. I expect that many people in the communications industry will adopt it as a counterpart. When it comes to writing though, the AP Style Guide will continue to be more revered. Perhaps someday the AP Stylebook and Yahoo can join together and create something truly comprehensive; now that would be interesting to see. For now, it is a nice addition to the publishing tool box.
When I was at a recent informational interview at Grady Britton I posed a question that sparked an interesting discussion and, as a result, this blog entry. Doing my homework and clicking through their website I noticed over and over again the phrase “print’s not dead yet”. That got me doing some more thinking about print and whether it is still (and will remain) a viable channel of communication. A lot of people are quick to dismiss it as a dying medium, but I disagree. The following are my opinions in a nutshell. Thinking back to my college days I remember a publishing and printing class I took as a communications elective class. The class was filled with fellow students who were crazy about books. Even moreso than myself, and I consider myself a devotee, in that they also loved the smell of books (I kid you not). From this I concluded that there will always be people out there who crave the tangible nature of print, whether they love the smell or just want to be able to touch, hold, highlight, scribble in margins and dog ear its pages as they read.
Even with the advent of e-readers and online news, I feel that there is still a market for print. Those who like to clip and post newspaper and magazine articles, highlight, scribble in margins and dog ear pages? You need to actually have a tangible print version to do the first, and the rest is much easier with print. Also these electronic devices require rechargeable batteries and those need outlets to recharge. They are not as pool or beach friendly as a print version book, newspaper or magazine. Get one of the print versions slightly wet, and it is not the end of the world. Run out of battery charge, or get sand or water in an e-reader and it is never a good thing but rather a hassle. One that requires additional expenses such as batteries, repair costs, and waterproof covers. Where will people who get burnt out on the hassles and downfalls of electronic devices go? Print. Furthermore print as a communication industry technique offers a type of visual component that is different than that served up with other tactics, and can make for a more well-rounded and profitable campaign. It is also still the most affordable and the most easily accessible. Thus I believe there will always be a demand for print and, consequently, a place for print in the toolbox of the media professional.
I am a writer. At the core, it has always come back to writing. Take, for instance, my passions for journalism and public relations. Both of them stem from my passion for writing. I love arranging and rearranging sentences to produce that perfect paragraph. When my thoughts produce the perfect adjectives to convey my message, while persuading and enticing its readers, it sends a chill down my spine and endorphins rushing through my head. This has translated into the same excitement I get when writing a great lead for a press release and composing the perfect caption or persuasive snippet for an editorial article or section in a magazine.
My love of writing is intertwined with my lifelong status as an avid reader whose reading interests run the gamut from Nicholas Sparks to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. As a child I fell in love with words, particularly adjectives, in our elementary school’s Wordly Wise program. Basically, Wordly Wise is a vocabulary program geared towards gifted readers. This program jump started a never-ending interest in words for me. It produced a strong foundation, coupled with words learned via my own reading and class reading, that when built upon by internships and my beginning career experiences catapulted my writing and writing style to new levels. Without my interest in words and reading, my writing would not be what it is and I would not be able to call myself a writer. This background makes up the core of what I am in a professional sense, and because of it I am a writer.