On February 8, 2011, WaPo announced a little "experiment" which was designed to make it easier for on-line readers to point out errors in an article:
Registered site users can suggest corrections and ideas for future coverage by clicking on the links and filling out a Google form describing the problem they spot or idea they propose. Editors will review the user posts frequently during the day, and make corrections in print and online where stories turn out to be wrong.
OK, that sounds like a reasonably good idea, at least in theory. The Los Angeles Times, however, identified a rather serious flaw in this little experiment:
What the Post's new feature also does is encourage readers to report corrections in a private forum that's behind an opaque wall rather than on a comments board that's visible to all.
In other words, it looked to LAT that WaPo had found a way to bury corrections.
Of course, and as the comments to the WaPo post pointed out, if reporters and editors were doing their job properly, such a mechanism wouldn't be necessary. But even given the potential for simple human error, hiding the suggested corrections away from the public doesn't say much for WaPo's journalistic integrity.
It was only an experiment, and a short-lived one at that. I went to the WaPo article announcing the experiment (the link is above) and discovered that the link to the form for posting the correction is dead. I went to another WaPo story published today, and no such link exists.
I'd like to think that the people at the Washington Post had good intentions but just didn't think their little experiment through, but that isn't possible. The paper has been online too long not to realize the implications of a wall. The paper's readers sure did.
Labels: Free Press