Post's corrections problem is being corrected
An ombudsman’s column more than a year ago criticized The Post for its “abysmal performance” in allowing a backlog of hundreds of unresolved reader correction requests dating back to 2004. Late last year, I wrote another column scolding the newsroom for too often moving at a “snail’s pace” to correct errors that occurred months earlier.
Today, I’m writing to praise The Post for progress. An examination of its internal database for tracking correction requests shows that the backlog is at its lowest in years.
There’s still room for improvement. Readers periodically complain that their requests for corrections, typically e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, are never acknowledged. And sometimes it takes too long to run a correction that should have appeared within days. For example, reader Jack Toomey of Poolesville sought a correction the day after a May 6 story erroneously reported that an Amtrak “Chicago Limited” train struck a man near Germantown. As Toomey noted, the accurate name of the train is the “Capitol Limited.” His request still lingers in the system. A correction should have run immediately.
But overall, The Post has reversed its embarrassing inattention to correction requests. Since my initial column, section editors have received regular reminders about correction requests that have been pending for more than 14 days. Where a backlog of several hundred neglected requests once existed, the number now is only four. The database shows a handful of other pending requests that are being addressed and corrections likely will appear soon.
Following publication of my first column on March 22 of last year, Assistant Managing Editor Peter Perl successfully pushed the newsroom to whittle down the huge backlog of requests. The task of riding herd on corrections was subsequently passed to Senior Editor Milton Coleman, who started another push several months ago.
“Most of the delays and non-responses are procedural errors, like the correction request going to the wrong person or falling in between the cracks,” Coleman said. He added that sometimes delays occur due to “a lack of understanding about when we do a correction, versus a clarification or an editor’s note.”
Coleman credited two veteran Post copy editors, Bill Walsh and Martha Murdock, with improving corrections to make them “more fulsome, clearer and more transparent.” That’s helpful to readers, who in the past often complained about Post corrections that made it impossible to know the original error.
Corrections appear on the second page of the A section in print. Online, they are collected under a "Corrections" heading and appended to the relevant articles.
| May 18, 2010; 11:21 AM ET
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