Why so many mistakes?
Question: You seem to have a lot of mistakes listed in the "Accuracy watch." Don't the reporters check their sources for spellings and the like?
I see a lot of reporting errors. Why is that? -- Janet M. Culbertson, Spokane
Answer: Reporters check their sources. They check spelling and grammar. And we have editors and copy editors reading behind reporters. Most news stories are handled by four to six people before they are published.
Still, with all of the checks, balances and double checks, errors are made. Sometimes they are the result of carelessness on the part of someone in the editing chain. A misspelled name is often the result of a mis-read set of notes or a simple typo on the part of a writer or editor. Sometimes errors are more substantive and are the result of mistaken assumptions or fill-in-the-blanks writing.
We track all of our mistakes so that we can solve institutional problems that might contribute to inaccuracy. We recentyly discovered that through an unfortunate chain of events, one regular feature is no longer edited as carefully as it has been edited in the past. In the weeks our attention has been diverted, we've recorded an unacceptable number of mistakes. Now that we've figured that out, we're able to restore the editing steps that were missing and that should solve the problem.
More than a year ago The Spokesman-Review launched a vigorous accuracy watch program and we moved our corrections to a prominent position in the paper -- the local news front. These were important steps in making manifest our committment to accuracy. But one side effect of vigorous attention to accuracy is that more errors are identified. So our corrections column has grown in size while the actual number of errors probably has not increased or decreased all that much from previous years.
But that trade-off is a good one as a vigorous and transparent accuracy policy is, in the end, good for a newspaper's credibility. -- Steve Smith, editor