As millions of journalists publish endless stories, it may always be the case that a mistake can be made among their story and/or accuracy of sources. But how many of those journalists are actually taking responsibility for those mistakes? Scott Rosenberg on Three Pillars of Trust: Links, revisions, and error buttons, discusses the impact of uncorrected errors and how journalists and news organizations can change that. Rosenberg highlights, “more than half of stories being published contain mistakes – and only three percent of those errors are ever fixed.” Because of the lack of effort or willingness to alter these errors, news organizations have and are increasingly losing the public’s trust. How do we begin to believe or know journalists are producing reliable facts? Rosenberg addresses three simple yet overlooked steps that news organizations can take into account in order to minimize the number of errors in their stories and establish better rapport among their readers.
- The first step Rosenberg introduces is the ability to “Link generously.”
In other words, he emphasizes the significance in providing sources to help support the credibility of their research. Without these links to the sources that have been utilized, readers are not given the opportunity to assess whether the story is a reliable document.
- The next step is the importance of “Showing your work.”
By showing your work, Rosenberg encourages journalists to attach previous revisions of the same story to show the processes of their improvements. He highlights the idea of practicing transparency and by doing this, he claims “providing a history of every version of the story” can fulfill that practice.
- Rosenbergs’ final step promotes the act of “Helping people report mistakes.”
He states, “The internet is a powerfully efficient feedback mechanism.” In this last step, he encourages news organizations to implement a type of attachment or button that allows readers to share that they believe the writer has made some sort of mistake. This gives the writer the ability to receive feedback.
Rosenberg along with many others understand that these “uncorrected errors are beginning to undermine the public’s trust” and in order to build that trust back, he believes these steps are an essential start. Below is a short clip of Jeff Jarvis identifying his take on Journalistic Code of Ethics that I think is relevant to Rosenberg’s three pillars.
Along with ideas to change the face of accuracy and credibility, Rosenberg also breaks down the reasons these practices are not widely or commonly used. He begins with explaining what the industry has to offer. He explains that systems that consist of tools to immediately correct these mistakes, do not exist. And later states, that even if these correction systems did exist, they are not “bringing in revenue directly” and news organizations are not gaining money from it and are wasting time doing so. Following, Rosenberg switches the reasoning on the writers themselves. He claims, “many editors do not believe the problem is serious” and do not take into account that inaccuracy loses the public’s trust. Next, he believes writers assume that readers with corrections or feedback are just people who don’t support their work, and the writers believe it is their “duty to ignore them.”
An example of a news organization that does a really great job of updating their revisions and linking sources is the Dallas Morning News. Each article contains specific links within the text or below a specific image or statistic in order to allow their readers to access their sources. One particular article on The Dallas Morning News addressing the current pandemic provides almost all key steps that allow the public to trust its content. The beginning of the article contains an update with a specific time and statistic. Throughout the article, there are links within the text, under images, and identified sources within the story. Below is the link to the article.
As we look into the truth behind every journalists’ intentions when publishing or writing a story, Rosenberg states “we ask them what sets them apart from others that share online as well.”
If their answer is “We care about accuracy. We correct our mistakes,” Rosenberg emphasizes that they should practice what they preach unless they want to continue losing the public’s trust.