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Corrigendum in newspapers – sign of credibility?

01-December-2010
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Corrigendum in newspapers – sign of credibility?

The media industry in the recent past has been plagued by quite a few ‘controversies’ ranging from corporate lobbying to plagiarism. When it comes to a credible edit, what is the perfect recipe? Does publishing corrigendum feature in the mix and is it enough?

Referring to the Niira Radia tapes issue, veteran columnist and editor TN Ninan in ‘Just say Sorry’ (an opinion piece in Business Standard) wrote on what he thought could be a solution: “… Both could bring themselves to admit that they crossed a line, apologise and declare that it won’t happen again, the entire journalist community would breathe easier and hold its head up a little higher”.

But how hard is it to admit ones errors, apologies and move on? From what it appears from recent events – very hard! exchange4media finds out from some senior editors and media experts on their views on corrigendum letters and if they think corrigendum letters are a sign of credible edit.

Editors Speak
Speaking on the issue of corrigendum letters, Sanjaya Baru, Editor, Business Standard, said, “The Business Standard view is that the editorial ‘credibility’ of a newspaper depends on several factors, and the ready willingness to concede and correct mistakes is certainly one of them. Business Standard has a policy of carrying corrections, both suo moto (when someone internally points to an error) and when attention is drawn by a reader.”

Indrajit Gupta, Editor, Forbes India, added here, “We try our best to avoid mistakes. But the fact is that they sometimes do happen. Pushing them under the carpet makes little sense, especially if we, as a business publication, want our readers to trust what we put out.” According to him, the credibility of a publication was enhanced if it encouraged an internal culture of accepting mistakes and bringing that to the attention of the readers.

While carrying a corrigendum helped in building readers’ trust, one shouldn’t be browbeaten to it by vested interest. Warning against such a situation, Abhijit Majumder, Executive Editor, Mid-Day, affirmed that while readers appreciated the courage and humility of a paper in acknowledging its mistakes, an editor should choose to carry a corrigendum with care, not giving in to pressure by vested interests to “extract their pound of flesh or kilo of ego”. He further said, “Publishing a newspaper or magazine without owning up to one’s mistakes is a bit like wearing a shirt without buttoning up. It reflects lack of self-esteem or respect (for the reader in this case), indifference, and often arrogance.”

In an earlier conversation with exchange4media, R Jagannathan, who recently quit as DNA Editor and is soon joining Web18 as Editor, Business and Financial Media, had said, “We believe in issuing corrigendum notes whenever a mistake has been made by us. Sometimes we do it even if no one has complained, but we know we have made a mistake. Our policy is to carry the correction on the same page on which the mistake was made, often enclosed in a box to highlight it.”

All newspapers have several checks and measures in place to keep errors at bay. Stories have to undergo several rounds of quality and error checks before they go to print.

Speaking at the 4th Annual South Asia conference of INMA, Sukumar Ranganathan, Editor, Mint, had disclosed that Mint had a rewrite desk and four to five levels of checks before any news went on print. This increased the paper’s credibility and kept the errors in check. Mint also has a corrections and clarifications column, which acknowledges all the mistakes it has made, irrespective of whether someone points it out or not. There is also a year-end audit, which examines the number of mistakes made throughout the year.

Media Experts Speak
Meanwhile, media experts have a different view on corrigendum letters. Divya Radhakrishnan, President, TME felt that most newspapers carried corrigendum letters merely for the heck of it. She noted that usually only minor grammatical and language errors were mentioned. “However, a newspaper would really be appreciated if it could stand up and say that certain news was wrong – we seldom see that. On the flip-side of it, readers might also think that the publication is making too many errors. The number of errors also depends on the publication one is reading. Newspapers like The Hindu seldom make grammatical errors and are known for their linguistic skills,” she added.

Shailesh Velandy, Vice President, Mudra Max, opined, “The genesis of corrigendum began with the need to admit errors. However, now-a-days most publications print corrigendum letters only to save their skin, and only if necessary. Corrigendum letters should be an impromptu act and should not necessarily be triggered off after a complaint.”

Voice of the people
According to the ‘impact Synovate Opinion Poll’ conducted in five cities, 86 per cent of the people feel let down by the news of senior journalists being compared to fixers. When asked which profession people trusted the most, journalism as a profession could garner merely 3 per cent of the votes. The poll brings forth several important subjects and revelations about the profession of journalism and how disillusioned people feel about it currently.

 

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