I’m enjoying some time off after my exams (I got an email from uni telling me to pay my library fines or else today) and I’ve been catching up on things on the blogosphere. I was reading Ben Goldacre’s Secondary Blogtoday and found an old, in Internet years, post (26 May 2011) about newspaper corrections.
There is a site, regrettheerror.com which includes a checklist for not getting things wrong. The writer suggests that working from a checklist provides a memory jogger which helps you check that you’re not forgetting anything while doing the primary thing you were doing. Memory is not fallible, especially if you’re distracted, and jogging it is important.
Part of the checklist is about getting your ducks in a row as a working journalist: having your interviews recorded and research saved for future reference and so on. Some of it is simply checking the details: checking your maths and, because it’s writing, if you’ve dotted i’s and crossed t’s.
The interesting one for me is at the end of “While Reporting”:
Ask sources what other reports got wrong.
This is a genius move. Kudos to Craig Silverman for sharing it. Finding out that there are common mistakes in an area is a good first step to avoiding falling into them (you’re probably not special enough to make entirely novel mistakes).
It should go without saying that being accurate is an extremely important skill for just about anyone. It’s hard to see a sphere in life where being wrong is a benefit.